What You Need To Know About Tuberculosis


While aboard public transportation in some parts of Lagos, it is common to see a man or woman seize the opportunity to sell one thing or the other, this is usually accompanied with a lot of talking and persuasion. In the process lots of saliva is let into the air while in some cases the seller engage in the reflex actions of coughing or sneezing.

Although commercial bus rides provide business opportunities for itinerant traders, the way people are usually jam-packed in the buses and the compact nature of the buses is also an avenue to spread and contract air-borne diseases. One of such contagious diseases is tuberculosis or TB for short.

According to Wikipedia, tuberculosis is usually spread through the air when people who have an infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit their saliva through the air. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body.

When people suffering from active TB cough, sneeze, speak, sing or spit they expel droplets of infectious aerosol. A single sneeze can release up to 40,000 droplets and each droplet can transmit the disease because the infectious dose of bacteria is very low and inhaling fewer than ten bacteria can cause an infection.

In its active stage, 75% of TB cases always involve the lungs. Symptoms include chest pain, coughing blood, and a prolonged cough for more than three weeks. Systematic symptoms include fever, chills, night sweats, weight loss and fatigue.

It is stated that about one third of the world’s population is infected with Tuberculosis. In 2007 there were an estimated 13.7 million chronic active cases, 9.3 million new cases, and 1.8 million deaths, mostly in developing countries.

TB is diagnosed definitively by identifying the causative organism in a clinical sample. A complete medical evaluation for TB must include a medical history, a physical examination, and a chest X-ray.

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However new TB tests have been developed that are fast and accurate. These include polymerase chain reaction assays for the detection of bacterial DNA. One of such molecular diagnostics test gives results in 100 minutes and is being currently offered to 116 low and middle-income countries at a discount with support from World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Treatment for TB involves the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. The two antibiotics commonly used are isoniazid and rifampicin; however TB requires a period of 6 to 24 months to entirely eliminate the mycobacteria from the body.

According to a medical practitioner at Highland Hospital in Nigeria, Dr. Onoyemi Kunle, tuberculosis is more prevalent amongst the dwellers in the northern part of Nigeria. This is due to the fact that most houses in the north are poorly ventilated, also more northerners are in the habit of smoking which has been cited as one of the major causes of tuberculosis.

However, prevention is usually the best method. Whenever someone sneezes, coughs or spits close to where you are, as an individual, always take precaution, you should either leave the place immediately or avoid direct contact with persons infected with tuberculosis.


•Ogunmefun Patience, Department of Journalism, Lagos State University, LASU.