What is Tuberculosis?

TB is an airborne bacterial disease containing the TB bacteria, Mycobacterim tuberculosis, which primarily affects the lungs but, can affect other parts of the body as well. The bacterium can destroy parts of the lungs making it difficult to breathe.

Once inhaled, it settles in the lung and is then passed on to others by coughing, sneezing, singing or close contact.

Some people may be completely unaware they have TB as suffer little or no symptoms or illness and thus, spread the bacteria without even realising they have TB

How dangerous is TB?

Tuberculosis is the world's leading health challenge making this a top infectious disease killer.

It is estimated that TB kills over 100 000 people in South Africa every year and this is an "on going" battle that is rapidly spreading. It is the country's leading cause of death made worse by the HIV epidemic.

South africa has one of the highest reported Tuberculosis infection rates in the world of which almost 80% of these sufferers are in their most economically productive years. People of all ages, nationalities and socio-economic groups can contract this bacteria and get Tuberculosis

Types of TB

There are 2 types of TB, latent TB and active TB

Latent TB is when the immune system is strong and the body forms a scar tissue around the bacteria containing it to the lung. There are no symptoms, people are not ill and are not infectious. This constitutes almost 80% of the population in SA. People with this are completely unaware that they have TB. X-rays and other tests often do not show up the disease.

Active TB is when the body's immune system weakens and the latent TB reactivates, becomes infectious and symptoms and illness is apparent.

Signs and Symptoms of TB

  • Coughing for more than 2-3 weeks
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Chest Pain
  • Fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Joint Pain
  • General feeling of weakness and unwell

Treatment of tuberculosis

As long as there are no complications, TB may be cured quite easily. A treatment plan is to be adhered to and, if properly, followed, TB may be cured in 6 - 9 months.

It is usually treated with a combination of several anti TB daily oral drugs and you will be required to have regular check ups and tests before you are confiremed "cured" of TB.

Tests used to diagnose TB include skin testing, sputum test or a chest x-ray. The sputum test can take time ( 2-8 weeks) before a result is obtained and is often followed up after a positive chest x-ray and vice versa.

Sputum tests will also confirm active or latent TB

Complications of treatment tuberculosis

Drug resistance TB is caused by an incomplete treatment plan whereby the treatment is stopped before completion.

This is dangerous as the TB bacteria develops a resistance to the drugs and will require a second line of anti TB drugs to be administered which are expensive and not as effective as the first line of treatment. Permanent lung damage can also be caused as a results of this. Treatment here decreases and the cure rate is 50%.

Factors that contribute to the spread of TB

Together we can stop the spread of Tuberculosis

There are so many people who are undiagnosed and unaware of their TB disease. This contributes hugely to the spread of Tuberculosis on an ongoing basis.

Should you have been in contact with an infected person, please seek medical attention and confirm diagnosis via a chest x-ray or sputum test. Some doctors will require both for an exact diagnosis.

Why x-ray screening is essential in combatting TB

An ideal opportunity exists in the corporate environment eg. factories, mines, state prisons, business, farms, etc. to screen for TB ( and other lung related diseases) on a regular basis in order to indentify, diagnose and treat this conditions.

By encouraging regular chest x-rays, correct and proper treatment is adopted and the cure rate is increased leading to less absenteeism and greater productivity in the work place. This also controls the rapid spread of TB in a crowded workplace.

Company's tend to allocate budgets to other more "pressing" areas in the manufacturing and corporate environment which may be misguided as the reality is that a "wellness corporate programme" has proved to be far more beneficial in the long run for employees.

Large Numbers of x-rays can be done in a short time. An added advantage is that all other co-morbid diseases and lung problems will also be diagnosed adding to the value of this service.

Make sure you have your staff's well-being covered.

The awareness of TB is encouraged in the corporate environment and a chest x-ray is an ideal opportunity to control the disease and the spread of it. Not only for TB but for all lung and co-morbid conditions that may, otherwise go undetected.

Bergman Ross and Partners Radiologists in , conjuction with On-Site Occupational Health X-rays offers an excellent platform to screen large numbers of staff quickly without any interference or loss of production as are done on site in a matter of minutes per person.

Reports are done almost immediately and a full report is done in the event of an infected or diseased person encouraging further action and treatment and breaking the cycle of TB spreading.