Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is an infection that affects the lungs and may also affect bones, joints, the circulatory system and central nervous system. This disease can be highly contagious if left untreated. In 1993, the World Health Organization declared TB to be a world health emergency because of the frequency of infection and the ease in which it spreads. It is estimated that nine billion new cases are reported each year.
As with any disease, it is better to ensure prevention. TB vaccinations are common and highly effective, especially in children. TB vaccinations are very common in the United States as well as other countries. Although a higher percent of children are successfully protected, if adults have not received a TB vaccination it is recommended they get one.
Symptoms of TB include chest pain, coughing, inability to breathe and pneumonia-like symptoms. However, it is also common to be infected and show no outward signs. Diagnosis of the disease will occur with a complete examination including a TB skin test. It is important to minimize the damages by early detection and prompt treatment. This can mean the difference between full recovery and possible death.
Treatment of this disease can be complicated, especially if there are other factors such as HIV. It is recommended that quarantined hospitalization occur to monitor progress and reduce the risk of spreading. Common drug therapies include antibiotics specifically designed for TB treatment such as Isoniazid, Rifampin, Pyrazinamide, Streptomycin and Ethambutol. Unfortunately, there are many strains of tuberculosis that have become resistant to the medications. It is very important for continued monitoring to ensure effectiveness of a drug or combination of drugs.
In the instance where the body is resisting drugs, surgery may be necessary. The portion of the lungs affected may be removed. Also, chest tube drainage may be required. In these cases, recovery percentages are very low. In order to reduce this risk, treatment as early as possible is advised. Patients who have an early diagnosis or are not immune to the drug treatments have a high success rate of complete recovery. Relapses are extremely rare with proper treatment.
With over two billion people affected with tuberculosis in the world, the seriousness of this disease can not be denied. Prevention of the disease is the best way to keep the spreading of it in check. This includes ensuring children are properly vaccinated and all shots are kept up to date. Early detection and treatment are also key factors in guaranteeing complete recovery and minimizing risk of relapse.