India accounts for about a quarter of the global TB burden, which is about 2.6 million cases out of 10 million cases worldwide. Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection that usually attacks your lungs but can also spread to other parts of your body, like your brain and spine. A person with infectious tuberculosis can infect up to 10–15 other people per year. But with timely diagnosis and treatment, most of these patients are no longer infectious after just two weeks of taking the medication. Removing the stigma around TB, increasing the awareness and seeking timely medical help will help fight the TB battle in India.
Stages of TB
When exposed to the tuberculosis bacteria in your body, it goes through the below stages:
- Latent TB – Your body contains the TB germs, but your immune system prevents them from spreading. You’re not infectious and don’t have any symptoms. However, the virus is still alive and could resurface at any time.
- Active TB – The TB germs multiply and make you sick and you can also spread the disease to others. Ninety percent of active cases in adults come from a latent TB infection.
Signs and symptoms of TB
When you are suffering from latent TB, it does not show any symptoms. A skin or blood test can help detect latent TB. Here are a few signs of active TB disease:
- A cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Night sweats
- Fever and chills
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
If you have any of these symptoms, you must see a doctor to get yourself tested.
Risk factors of TB
People with impaired or immature immune systems, such as those infected with HIV, the elderly, or those with existing medical conditions have a higher risk of getting TB. Here are some other situations that increase your TB risk:
- A friend, colleague, or family member has active TB
- You live in or have travelled to an area where TB is common
- You are a healthcare worker
- Use of cigarettes
How does TB spread?
When someone who has active TB coughs, sneezes, talks, laughs, or sings, they release tiny droplets that contain the germs. If you breathe in these germs, you can get infected with it. This airborne disease is contagious and you are more likely to get it from co-workers, friends, and family members. However, the germs do not thrive on surfaces and you cannot get it from shaking hands with someone who has it or by sharing their food or drink.
Complications of TB
Without treatment, tuberculosis can be fatal. Untreated active disease typically affects your lungs, but it can also spread to other parts of your body through your bloodstream over a period of time. Examples of tuberculosis complications include:
- Spinal pain
- Joint damage
- Liver or kidney problems
- Heart disorders
Preventive measures – TB infection
If you test positive for latent TB infection, your doctor may advise you to take medications to reduce your risk of developing active tuberculosis. The only type of tuberculosis that is contagious is the active variety. Take all the precautions as suggested by your doctor to prevent your latent tuberculosis from becoming active. Here are some additional recommendations:
1. Protect your family and friends
- Stay at home and isolate yourself from others
- Ventilate the room
- Cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing
- Wear a mask when you are around people
2. Finish your entire course of medication
This is the most important step you can take to protect yourself and others from tuberculosis. When you stop treatment early or skip doses, TB bacteria have a chance to develop mutations and turn into drug-resistant TB that is deadly and difficult to treat.
The BCG vaccine is given to infants to protect them from tuberculosis. Ensure that your child is immunized against TB.
Tuberculosis Treatment at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital
Early detection and treatment is the key to controlling the spread of TB. We help patients in the diagnosis and testing of both active and inactive TB. The Department of Pulmonary Medicine at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital provides state-of-the-art care for all respiratory diseases. The team is equipped with advanced infrastructure and world-class service in the diagnosis and management of tuberculosis. Our dedicated team guides patients through the various stages of TB and ensures a successful treatment. For more information please visit our website: