Did you know that World TB Day is commemorated annually on 24 March?
The day marks anniversary of the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, TB bacillus. The day provides an opportunity for all citizens to learn more about TB, symptoms of the disease and the screening and treatment options available. According to Stats SA’s 2016 mortality report, released in May 2018, TB is the country’s leading cause of natural death. It doesn’t have to be.
Tuberculosis is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, commonly affecting the lungs, but also other organs. When a person with TB coughs or sneezes, the TB bacteria is expelled into the air. People in close proximity could inhale the bacteria and become infected. You cannot contract TB from kissing, sharing food or shaking hands.
There are two types of tuberculosis that we refer to:
Latent TB refers to when the person is infected with the TB bacteria but they not do have symptoms. They are not contagious and cannot pass the disease on to others.
Active TB is when the person is infected with TB and has symptoms of illness. They are contagious and can pass the disease on to others.
Why Get Tested For TB?
TB is a curable disease, especially when treated early. With the right treatment – and if you take your medication correctly and complete the course – you will be cured. Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is caused by bacteria that is resistant or does not respond to standard anti-TB drugs. Treatment involves using different drugs over a much longer period of treatment.
Active TB is highly contagious and close family members are at risk for contracting the disease. By treatment for TB, you get help for yourself and protect those you love. Without treatment, TB can be fatal.
- Persistent cough (longer than two weeks)
- Feeling ill (longer than two weeks)
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Severe cough
- Poor appetite
- Subsequent weight loss
- Chest pain (when breathing/coughing)
- Night sweats
- Fever and chills
- Coughing up mucus (may be bloody)
What Happens During TB Screening
Your company’s HR department may arrange for a mobile x-ray unit to visit your company and screening will be provided free of charge. TB causes changes in your lungs which can be seen on a x-ray. If these are noted, you will offered the sputum test. X-rays results are usually available within a fortnight.
Sputum Test (Culture)
TB tests are free at government clinics. Adults will be required to give a sputum sample (you’ll be asked to cough mucus into a bottle). The sample is sent to the laboratory for testing and results may take up six to eight weeks.
Tuberculin PPD is injected into the forearm, just below the skin. Should a hard, red lump occur with two or three days, a TB infection is likely and further tests will be conducted. It is important to note that a positive skin test could also indicate a previous TB infection or if you received the BCG vaccination at birth. This test is generally used for babies and children, but x-rays may also be done, especially if the child is unable to provide a sputum sample.
Treatment for TB at government clinics is free. Treatment takes six to eight months and the full course of medication must be completed. You will be booked off work for about two weeks as you commence your treatment. After two weeks of treatment you are no longer contagious and can return to work. If you live in close contact with a child under the age of five years, tell your doctor as the child should also be screened. If you develop side-effects from the medication, you must return to the clinic or see your doctor. Do not stop taking your medication.
If you or anyone you know is showing signs of early or later symptoms, please visit our contact page and get in touch about screenings.