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  • World Tuberculosis Day: March 24
    Added by My Identity Doctor
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    March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. While it’s fairly common to require a tuberculosis, or TB, skin test as a condition of employment, most people will know that means that TB is contagious… but probably not much else.
    Symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis - central nervous system - fatigue and appetite loss, lungs - chest pain, coughing up blood, productive, prolonged cough, skin - night sweats, pallorTuberculosis is a bacterial lung disease, and while once extremely rare to find outside of developing countries, TB became more common in developed nations with the rise of HIV and AIDS, making more people more susceptible to catching the disease [1]. However, though TB is not easy to catch, it does happen—and, many strands of the tuberculosis virus are resistant to antibiotics, making it difficult to treat.
    Symptoms of tuberculosis include a persistent cough, a cough that produces blood, chest pain, and other common features of infection, such as weight loss without trying, fever, chills, tiredness/fatigue, night sweats, and loss of appetite. TB can also affect your kidneys, brain, and spine, causing pain and other symptoms specific to each of these areas of the body [1]. TB symptoms may not become evident right away—it is recommended that those who may be at increased risk of TB get screened regularly, including:
    1. people with HIV/AIDS
    2. anyone in contact with an infected individual, especially healthcare workers
    3. those working in correctional centres, nursing homes, homeless shelters where TB may be more prevalent
    4. people who are from, or exhibit symptoms after visiting, countries where TB is of high prevalence—including most of Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe [learn more about rates of TB in countries you may travel to from the World Health Organization]
    5. those who take IV street drugs [1, 2].
    While the TB skin test, or Mantoux test, mentioned earlier is one common screening method for TB, it cannot diagnose TB [2]. A blood test for tuberculosis, two of which are approved for use by the FDA, and while they provide a better picture, they still only can confirm if a person “likely” has or “likely” does not have tuberculosis based on antibody response—for example, having been vaccinated for tuberculosis will affect your blood test results, which means further evaluation is needed to confirm whether or not a person has TB. [2] Medical history, a physical exam, blood test results, a chest x-ray, and lab work all help to confirm or exclude TB as the cause of a person’s symptoms [2].
    Tuberculosis will often be treated with several drugs at once, especially if the infection strain is antibiotic-resistant. Drugs are often taken for 2-3 years for drug-resistant TB [1]. In most cases, those with TB will feel better after a few weeks and at this time no longer be contagious—as with all infections treated by antibiotics, it is important to continue the drugs as prescribed, or the bacteria may re-grow and develop resistance to the drug [1]. To prevent the spread of infection, TB patients are isolated from contact with others in the hospital, and should wear a mask when around others—healthcare providers or visitors also follow this precaution to stay healthy [1].
    While a vaccination for TB exists, it is only proven effective in children and as such only often used in countries where TB is rampant—it does not always prevent a person from acquiring TB, but can assist in heading-off severe infections of tuberculosis [1]. While it might be less effective, some health care workers who work with specific groups of TB patients may also benefit from vaccination with the BCG vaccine—or, if it is likely that a healthcare worker may contract TB from affected patients or colleagues [3]. While only one vaccine currently exists, dozens more are currently being developed—hopefully, this means that TB will soon become a very rare disease to encounter, much like measles, mumps, rubella, and even chicken pox, has.
    A man from Australia, Christiaan Van Vuuren, went to Argentina in 2009 and contracted TB. He spent over six months in isolation back home in Australia. A light-hearted look at the disease, Christiaan began making rap videos about having TB, under the moniker of the Fully Sick Rapper. If you’re looking for a way to share what you’ve learned about TB, Christiaan’s rap videos might be a good place to start..!

    Published by My Identity Doctor on March 24, 2016


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