World TB Day 2015
World TB Day (WTBD) is commemorated annually on 24 March. The aim is to create awareness about the causes, symptoms and treatment available for this infectious disease.
The international 2015 campaign theme is Reach. Treat. Cure Everyone. The aim is to ensure early diagnoses, successful treatment of tuberculosis (TB) patients and strengthening of partnerships between local and provincial health authorities and citizens to eliminate the threat of TB in the Western Cape by working better together.
As part of the Western Cape Government's work to promote a healthy society, Minister of Health Nomafrench Mbomo and Minister of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant went on a walkabout at Cape Town station on Monday 23 March 2015 to launch the Open (the) Windows campaign.
All the health districts in the Western Cape have been asked to put extra emphasis on TB prevention. The campaign is focused on educating public transport users about the importance of proper ventilation on trains, taxis and buses to help curb the spread of TB. It also promotes the idea of ‘going back to basics’ – encouraging natural ventilation and being aware of personal hygiene practices like coughing.
Know the facts
- What is TB?
TB is an infectious (yet curable), airborne disease that is caused by a germ that attacks and damages the lungs. It can be easily passed to others through coughing or sneezing.
- How are people infected?
When an infected person coughs, sneezes or spits saliva onto the ground, the germs are spread into the surrounding air and remain there for a long time. If you inhale that air, you can breathe in the germs and get infected.
- What are some of the factors that contribute to the weakening of the immune system?
- Poor nutrition
- Getting older
- Disease such as uncontrolled diabetes
- Physical and emotional stress
- Prolonged steroid therapy
- Cancer treatment
- Viral infections
- What are the early symptoms?
- Persistent cough for more than two weeks
- Unexplained weight loss
- Drenching night sweats
- General feeling of illness or fever for more than two weeks.
- If not treated early TB symptoms will worsen and will include:
- Continued, severe coughing
- Discoloured or bloody sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs)
- Drenching night sweats
- Mild fever or chills
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Pain in the chest while breathing or coughing
- Where and how do I get tested?
You can get free testing at your nearest clinic. Testing for adults is done by taking two sputum samples and the results are normally available after two to three days.
Testing for children is done using skin tests and chest X-rays.
- TB treatment
TB treatment is free at clinics. TB can only be cured if the full course of treatment, which can be from six to eight months, is completed. People who stop treatment are likely to develop multi-drug resistance, making the TB more difficult to cure. Treatment is in two phases:
The second phase is the continuation phase, in which two drugs are given for five days a week, for four to five months.
First-time TB clients must be treated for six months, while clients who have had TB before must take TB medicine for eight months. If there are side effects from the medication, the client must return to the clinic.
Children with TB are given different medicines and treated for four months only. To try and prevent TB, babies should be immunised with the BCG vaccine, which is available free of charge at all primary healthcare clinics.
Note: Like with any other medication, there can be side effects to TB treatment. The common side effects are rashes, nausea and vomiting. You should not stop using your medication as the side effects usually disappear after certain time.
How to prevent TB
- Know the symptoms of TB and urge anyone showing TB symptoms to get tested immediately.
- Ensure that people living with TB take their full course of medication, as instructed.
- Make sure that children below the age of five are vaccinated with the BCG vaccine to prevent TB infection. Children younger than five who are in contact with a TB patient must be given preventative therapy.
- All people living with HIV and AIDS have to be screened regularly. If they do not have TB, they can be given preventative therapy to reduce their risk of contracting it.
- If someone in your house has the disease, keep your home well ventilated to prevent the spread of germs.
- Keep windows open in taxis, trains and buses to ensure good air circulation.
Some more useful tips if you have or someone you know has TB
Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette can prevent the spread of TB. If you have to sneeze, cough or spit, you must:
- Turn your head away from people when you cough, sneeze or spit.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Try to sneeze, cough or spit into a tissue or toilet paper. Throw the used tissue or toilet paper into a bin.
- If you do not have a tissue or toilet paper on hand, sneeze and cough into your upper arm.
- Use a tissue or toilet paper if you need to blow your nose and throw the used tissue or toilet paper into a bin.
- If you have a cough, cold or flu, cover your mouth and nose by wearing a mask or scarf when you are in enclosed or crowded spaces, for example when visiting your clinic, travelling in public transport, or in your home.
- Continuously wash your hands so that you do not transmit germs.
Even though the Western Cape has the highest TB cure rate in South Africa, the risk for new infections remains a serious challenge. More work is required to change behaviour and address misconceptions at an individual level, as well as efforts to address the challenges facing our communities.