The top in­fec­tious killer

Business World - - HEALTH+GUIDE - Mark Louis F. Fer­rolino

TU­BER­CU­LO­SIS (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death and the lead­ing in­fec­tious dis­ease threat in the world which is re­spon­si­ble for more deaths than HIV (hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus) and malaria. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Global Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis Re­port pub­lished by World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), there were an es­ti­mated 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple who died from TB in 2015 or an equiv­a­lent of over 4,900 TB deaths ev­ery day. Over 95% of th­ese cases oc­curred in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries.

The re­port also said that an es­ti­mated 10.4 mil­lion new TB cases were recorded, which 5.9 mil­lion (56%) were among men, 3.5 mil­lion (34%) among women and 1 mil­lion (10%) among chil­dren. 60% of the fig­ure was ac­counted to only six coun­tries namely: China, In­dia, In­done­sia, Nige­ria, Pak­istan, and South Africa.

Gen­er­ally, the num­ber of TB deaths world­wide fell by 22% be­tween 2000 and 2015. In the same pe­riod, an es­ti­mated 49 mil­lion lives were saved through TB di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment. How­ever, the case fa­tal­ity ra­tio or the global pro­por­tion peo­ple with TB who die from dis­ease var­ied un­der 5% in a few coun­tries to more than 20% in most coun­tries in the African re­gion. This im­plies that there are con­sid­er­able in­equal­i­ties in ac­cess to TB di­ag­nos­tics and treat­ment among the coun­tries.

As ex­plained by WHO, TB is caused by bac­te­ria called My­cobac­terium tu­ber­cu­lo­sis that at­tacks the lungs. It can also spread to the other parts of the body like the brain and spine.

TB is con­ta­gious and air­borne which means it can be passed from per­son to per­son through air. When some­one with lung TB coughs, sneezes, or spits, tiny droplets that con­tain germs are re­leased into the air. Once a per­son in­hales and catches a few of th­ese germs, he or she be­come in­fected.

There are two types of TB con­di­tions, the la­tent TB and the ac­tive TB dis­ease. Ac­cord­ing to WHO, about one-third of the world’s pop­u­la­tion has la­tent TB, which means peo­ple have been in­fected by TB bac­te­ria but are not yet ill with the dis­ease and can­not trans­mit it. How­ever, the in­fec­tion is still alive in the body and can be­come ac­tive any­time. WHO noted that per­sons with com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tems, such as peo­ple liv­ing with HIV, mal­nu­tri­tion or di­a­betes, or peo­ple who use to­bacco, have a much higher risk of fall­ing ill.

On the other hand, ac­tive TB dis­ease is a con­di­tion which germs in the body mul­ti­ply and make the per­son suf­fers from cough with spu­tum and blood at times, chest pains, weak­ness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Peo­ple with ac­tive TB can in­fect 10 to 15 peo­ple through close con­tact over the course of a year.

TB can be cured with proper treat­ment. The ac­tive TB dis­ease is treated with a stan­dard of six-month course of four an­timi­cro­bial drugs with a su­per­vi­sion and sup­port by health worker or trained vol­un­teer. As for WHO, “With­out such sup­port, treat­ment ad­her­ence can be dif­fi­cult and the dis­ease can spread. The vast ma­jor­ity of TB cases can be cured when medicines are pro­vided and taken prop­erly.”

In 2035, re­duc­ing TB death cases by 95% and TB in­ci­dence rate by 90% are among the tar­gets of WHO un­der its “End TB Strat­egy,” In ad­di­tion, it aims to en­sure that no fam­ily is bur­dened with cat­a­strophic ex­penses due to TB. It may be an up­hill bat­tle to reach th­ese tar­gets, but WHO has as­sured that sig­nif­i­cant strides are made by set­ting spe­cific tar­gets ev­ery pe­riod. —

MICROGRAPH OF My­cobac­terium tu­ber­cu­lo­sis

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