Tuberculosis: Know the risks

The World Health Organisation reports that India is the worst affected among all the countries of the world and every year 3,00,000 people die of the disease. Tuberculosis is caused by a strain of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that has evolved over the centuries. At present, there are an astounding seven groups of strains of the bacteria that are genetically related to each other. Of each group, at least one is likely to be resistant to drugs and is capable of spreading quickly.


Risk Factors of Tuberculosis

While normal, healthy people can resist the infection, you can be at a greater risk under certain conditions. These can be:

● Patients that already have AIDS are more susceptible to getting TB because of a damaged immune system.

● Diseases like diabetes, some forms of cancer, and advanced kidney ailments can also affect your immunity.

● Some patients have to take certain medications for other conditions like treatment for cancer, drugs to prevent the rejection of organs in case of transplants, and psoriasis, to name a few. A common side effect of these drugs is a weakened immune system.

● Lack of an adequate, nutritious, and healthy diet can also affect your immunity.

● Very young children or aged people are more susceptible.

● Living or travelling in countries where there is a higher prevalence of the disease can be a risk factor.

● Working in healthcare, immigration, or prison facilities can raise the risk of contracting TB.

● Living in unsanitary conditions can be risky.

● Misuse of substances such as nicotine, alcohol and other drugs can make the user susceptible to the disease.


Reasons Why Tuberculosis is Spreading

While the Government of India has adopted several measures to control and contain the disease, TB continues to spread at an alarming rate. There are various reasons for this:

● Lack of detailed and proper awareness about TB

● Social stigma attached to TB because of which patients may not inform even their immediate family members

● Lack of medical care and doctors for people in remote areas

● Lack of adequate advanced testing laboratories that are more efficient in detecting TB

● High cost and low availability of the GeneExpert machines that can detect TB by molecular testing (These machines can identify drug-resistant strains so that the patients can be treated accordingly. But, the testing procedures are also expensive and government hospital doctors do not readily run the test.)

● Patients are given medicines that are useless against the drug-resistant strains of TB they have. As a result, they develop more advanced forms of the disease.

● Patients unknowingly have a latent form of the disease


Methods How Tuberculosis Spreads

This disease is typically spread from one person to another through minute droplets in the air. Any person coming in contact with a patient who is speaking, laughing, singing, sneezing, spitting, or coughing can get infected. Patients remain contagious for up to two weeks of beginning treatment and they must take the appropriate care in this time. However, TB is not that easy to catch. As against getting it from a stranger, you are more likely to contract it from an infected person or family member with whom you interact with closely on a regular basis.

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