What is Tuberculosis:
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs. But, TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
How Can I Get Tuberculosis?:
TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
When a person breathes in TB bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there, they can move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine, and brain.
How Can I Avoid Tuberculosis?:
If you are using a lot of public transport while traveling in Africa try to avoid coughing passengers. If you have a weakened immune system avoid crowded areas and sleeping in dorms. Since TB is prevalent throughout Africa it is best to get tested upon your return especially if you have spent more than a few weeks in Africa. You can also get vaccinated against TB before you travel to Africa.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis (TB):
Symptoms of TB depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. TB bacteria usually grow in the lungs. TB in the lungs may cause symptoms such as
- a bad cough that lasts longer than 2 weeks
- pain in the chest
- coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
- weakness or fatigue
- weight loss
- no appetite
- sweating at night
Treatment for Tuberculosis:
Tuberculosis can almost always be cured. An easy skin test can determine whether you have TB or not. If you have active TB disease you will need to take several different medications. An antibiotic cocktail is necessary so that TB cannot form resistance to one particular drug. The most common are:
- isoniazid (INH)
- rifampin (RIF)