Every year, tuberculosis kills nearly 2 million people worldwide. In fact, when it comes to infectious diseases, only AIDS is more lethal! While cases of tuberculosis are relatively rare in North America today, the disease is nevertheless a major challenge around the globe.
Definition of tuberculosis
The most common form of tuberculosis, an infection caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosisbacteria, attacks the lungs. It can also affect other parts of the body, like bones, kidneys, lymph nodes, genitals, meninges and the central nervous system.
A person infected with tuberculosis will not necessarily be sick. This is so because tuberculosis can remain latent – in other words inactive – for some time. It can, however, become active at any moment. Only at that point does it become contagious.
How tuberculosis is spread
Tuberculosis spreads through airborne droplets when someone who has the disease coughs, sneezes or talks. Occasional contact with an infected person does not automatically mean you will contract the infection. Only if you are in close, prolonged contact with the bacteria will you be at a greater risk of becoming infected. It is also important to note that the disease ceases to be contagious two to three weeks after the start of treatment, as long as the patient is careful to take the necessary medications.
Risk factors of tuberculosis
According to some estimates, more than one-third of the world’s population is currently infected with the bacteria. Tuberculosis generally spreads in areas where malnutrition and poverty are rampant. Poor health conditions, overpopulation and lack of medical care also increase the risk.
The following groups are most susceptible to the disease:
- The homeless;
- The elderly;
- Young children;
- People with a compromised immune system (by AIDS, cancer, etc.);
- Intravenous drug users;
- People working with at-risk groups.
Symptoms appear only during the active phase of the disease and include:
- A bad cough;
- Shortness of breath;
- Chills and fever;
- Extreme fatigue;
- Green, yellow or bloody sputum (phlegm);
- Loss of appetite and weight;
- Night sweats;
- Chest pains;
- Pain in the spine or main joints.
Skin tests, culture tests of sputum and chest X-rays are used to establish a clear diagnosis. Treating tuberculosis is a lengthy process. Patients will, in fact, need to take many types of antibiotics for up to two years. To prevent the development of drug-resistant bacteria, patients must absolutely follow through with their treatment to the end. On this front, your pharmacist is definitely your best source of information. Talk to him! He can provide you with specific details.
Do you have tuberculosis? There are many professional pharmacy services available to you:
If you or your loved one suffers from this serious illness, talk to your pharmacist. He’s there to help!