Tuberculosis in Africa

by 02/11/2012 11:39:00 0 comments 741 Views
Tuberculosis in Africa

Tuberculosis or TB (short for tubercle bacillus) is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused a number of strains of mycobacteria. TB attacks the lungs but can also infect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise spread droplets of their saliva through the air. Most people have infections with no symptoms called asymptomatic, latent infection, and about one in ten latent infections progress to active infectious disease, which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those infected.

The classic symptoms are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It used to be referred to as “consumption” due to the weight loss factor and brought into fashion the fainting couches of Europe. Infection of other organs causes a wide range of symptoms too numerous to list.

What causes this disease in Africa?

One third of the world’s population is thought to have been infected with M. tuberculosis,and new infections occur at a rate of about one per second.In addition, more people in the developing world contract tuberculosis because their immune systems are more likely to be vulnerable due to higher rates of AIDS and malnutrition.The distribution of tuberculosis is not uniform across the globe due to standards of living and traditions.

What can be done?

Diagnosis relies on heavily on radiology (commonly chest X-rays) in developed countries. Other tests include a tuberculin skin test, blood tests, as well as microscopic examination and microbiological culture of bodily fluids such as sputum tests. The most popular test done for determination in Africa is the sputum test and it is available for free at almost every healthcare center.

Treatment is difficult and requires long courses of multiple antibiotics. Social contacts are also screened and treated if necessary. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Prevention relies on screening programs and vaccination, usually with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine.

Hand washing is one way to help to prevent the disease. Avoiding public transportation and other areas where many people fit into a very small space is another. Those with high susceptibility often chose to wear masks across their nose and mouth. If the immune system is strong enough someone can carry TB without becoming infected.