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World Tuberculosis Day: Myths and facts about TB

Dr Sanjeev Mehta |

Updated: March 24, 2012, 11:54 AM IST
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World Tuberculosis Day: Myths and facts about TB
Dr Sanjeev Mehta talks about the complications, risk factors and myths associated with the disease.

Tuberculosis kills 800 people in India every year. By the time you finish reading this article, 2 people would've lost their battle to a preventable and curable disease. Approximately 80% of the Indian population is exposed to the tuberculosis bacilli by the time they turn 20.

As a part of CNN-IBN's efforts to increase awareness about this disease, on World Tuberculosis Day, Dr Sanjeev Mehta, leading Chest Physician with Lilavati Hospital, talks about the complications, risk factors and myths associated with the disease.

Understanding tuberculosis
It is an infection caused by germ 'Mycobacterium tuberculosis' and is spread across socio-economic division in India. Though this infection mostly attacks the in lungs but can also affect other parts of the body like the spine, called spinal tuberculosis or Pott's spine. tuberculosis is highly contagious and spreads through air. A single sneeze releases upto 40,000 droplets. Each of these droplets may transmit the disease. 1 in 10 infections eventually progress to active tuberculosis, which, if left untreated , kills more than 50% of those infected.

What causes tuberculosis?
When immunity is compromised due to an irregular lifestyle and unhealthy habits Alcohol and smoking. More than 15 cigarettes a day increases your risk by 4 times.
An unbalanced diet (includes malnourishment & obesity) Immuno-suppressants like steroids Diabetes and HIV-AIDS

Common symptoms of tuberculosis
- Persistent cough for two weeks or more
- Blood in sputum
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Night sweats
- Persistent fever - any grade, be it low or high - for two weeks or more

Myth: tuberculosis happens only to smokers and it affects only the lungs.
Fact: tuberculosis can happen because of a lot of other reasons and besides lungs, also affects the brain, spinal cord, intestines, eyes, covering of the heart, bones & joints, stomach etc.

Myth: It is a poor man's disease.
Fact: In reality, tuberculosis has broken all barriers and can affect anyone irrespective of their socio- financial background and living conditions.

Myth: It can be fatal.
Fact: If a patient follows the complete treatment module, then the disease is fully curable.

Myth: tuberculosis is contagious and anyone who comes in contact with a patient can contract it.
Fact: Only pulmonary or lung tuberculosis is infectious.

- Moderate (healthy levels of) alcohol consumption and no smoking.
- Exercise helps in building immunity.
- Healthy hygiene habits plays a vital role in prevention.
- Balanced diet- a meal should include pulses, legumes, seasonal fruits, green and fresh vegetables.

The treatment for tuberculosis is a six month cycle. All you need to do is consult a medical expert. If you have symptoms, consult your doctor. Following the advised line of treatment under strict medical supervision is crucial to recovery.

Tuberculosis Dos and Don'ts

- Have 2 sputum examinations done if you have cough of three weeks or more. These tests are done free of cost at Government sputum microscopy centers.
- Take all the medicines for the full prescribed period on regular basis.
- Use handkerchief when coughing or sneezing.
- Spilt in spittoons containing house-hold germicides.

- Don't avoid medical care if you have cough of three weeks or more
- Don't rely only on X-ray for diagnosis of tuberculosis
- Don't stop medicines before your physician discontinues them
- Don't spit indiscriminately

First Published: March 24, 2012, 11:54 AM IST
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