Tuberculosis, especially pulmonary tuberculosis is a major public health problem in many developing countries. It causes an estimated two million deaths per year all over the world. However, in developed countries tuberculosis is not a killer disease anymore, but persons suffering from immunodeficiency diseases such as AIDS are still at a risk of developing tuberculosis.
In patients suffering from HIV infection almost 50% of deaths in developed countries, and 80% of deaths in developing countries occur due to tuberculosis or TB as it is generally called. The causative organism of tuberculosis is mycobacterium tuberculosis.
It is a contagious disease and is transmitted through droplets in the air when a person infected with the disease, sneeze and coughs or spits the infected sputum. Even if the droplets evaporate quickly, the bacterium remains in the air for a long duration.
Prevention Of Tuberculosis Infection
The tubercle bacilli do not survive long in sunlight and ultraviolet light. With modern day medicines, tuberculosis is completely curable in uncomplicated cases. However, preventing tuberculosis in the first place can save many people from morbidity and mortality. Following measures are useful for preventing tuberculosis from spreading.
- Isolate the patient suffering from tuberculosis, especially if he is not taking any anti- tuberculosis medicine. Even a single sneeze or cough can spread many droplets in the air containing TB germs. When a normal person comes in contact with the airborne droplets containing the germs, there is a fair chance of person becoming infected with the germs. If you have no way but to come in close contact with the patient such as medical doctors, nursing staff, etc, than wear a mask and gloves. It is necessary to wash your hands with disinfecting agent after attending the patient having active tuberculosis infection.
- A patient suffering from tuberculosis should take full course of anti tuberculosis medicine as advised by the physician, to prevent the further spread of infection and for its cure.
- Eat healthy nutritious diet containing vitamins, minerals, proteins and other nutrients to keep healthy immune status. This is an effective way to prevent infectious diseases including tuberculosis.
Precautions For TB Infection Control
- Any patient for more than three weeks of cough should be screened for tuberculosis. There are certain tests that can help to detect tuberculosis such as tuberculin test. But in many countries such as India where BCG vaccine is given as primary inoculation, the test results can be deceptive or false positive. Presence of acid fast bacilli (AFB) in sputum is the gold standard for diagnosis of tuberculosis in the lungs. X- Ray of chest and raised blood ESR are supplementary test for diagnosing TB. For early diagnosis, newer techniques such as TB IgG and TB IgM are of considerable value. If these tests are positive for tuberculosis, than active treatment consisting of anti tuberculosis medicine is started to control the infection and spread of the disease.
- Taking personal hygienic care is also important; such as not to spit in open, placing a handkerchief in front of the mouth while coughing.
- A person with long standing cough should walk in sunlight as sunlight which contains ultraviolet rays is effective in killing the germs.
- An infected person should stay at home or in isolation for first few weeks after starting the treatment. Generally after 3 weeks of starting the treatment the patient is considered to be non infective.
There are few important points a person should remember regarding TB spread.
- TB is fully curable disease, provided a person takes full course of treatment as advised by the physician.
- An infected person can stop the spread of TB if he starts the treatment and takes it regularly.
- Tuberculosis does not spread by sitting on a common toilet seat or handshake or sharing common dining utensils.