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Tuberculosis

The bacterial disease known as tuberculosis, or TB, is a persistent and contagious illness that is mostly caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. With a long history that dates back to ancient civilizations, it continues to be one of the most important public health challenges in the globe. Even though it can be cured, tuberculosis (TB) still affects millions of people worldwide, with low- and middle-income nations bearing a disproportionate share of the burden.

Transmission

As an airborne illness, tuberculosis is spread by:

  1. Inhaling droplets containing the bacteria when an infected person:
    • Coughs
    • Sneezes
    • Talks
    • Sings
  2. Close contact with an infected person, such as:
    • Living with an infected person
    • Sharing food or drinks
    • Sharing personal items

Symptoms

After infection, tuberculosis symptoms may not show up for weeks, months, or even years. Typical signs and symptoms include of:

  1. Pulmonary TB:
    • Coughing for more than two weeks
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Coughing up blood or phlegm
    • Fatigue
    • Weight loss
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Sweating
  2. Extrapulmonary TB:
    • Depends on the affected area, such as:
      • Meningitis (infection of the lining around the brain and spinal cord): headache, vomiting, stiff neck
      • Kidney TB: blood in urine, abdominal pain
      • Spinal TB: back pain, stiffness

Risk Factors

  1. Weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer, taking immunosuppressive drugs)
  2. Close contact with an infected person
  3. Living in crowded or unsanitary conditions
  4. Malnutrition
  5. Poverty
  6. Age (young children and older adults)
  7. Chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes, kidney disease)

Diagnosis

  1. Chest X-ray
  2. Sputum test (microscopic examination of coughed-up phlegm)
  3. Culture test (growing the bacteria in a laboratory)
  4. Blood tests (e.g., Mantoux test, QuantiFERON-TB Gold test)
  5. Biopsy (removing a tissue sample for examination)

Treatment

  1. Antibiotics (first-line drugs: isoniazid, rifampicin, ethambutol, pyrazinamide, and streptomycin)
  2. Treatment duration: at least six months
  3. Drug-resistant TB requires longer treatment with second-line drugs

Prevention and Control

  1. Vaccination (BCG vaccine)
  2. Early diagnosis and treatment
  3. Contact tracing and screening
  4. Improving ventilation and reducing overcrowding
  5. Addressing social determinants of health (e.g., poverty, malnutrition)
  6. Strengthening healthcare systems and access to care

TB in Ghana

  1. High incidence rate (approximately 150 cases per 100,000 population)
  2. Growing burden of drug-resistant TB
  3. Efforts to control and eliminate TB include:
    • Strengthening healthcare systems
    • Improving access to diagnosis and treatment
    • Increasing awareness and education
    • Addressing social determinants of health

Ghana’s public health is greatly affected by tuberculosis (TB), and attempts to manage and eradicate the illness need for an all-encompassing strategy that tackles socioeconomic determinants of health, fortifies healthcare infrastructure, and enhances access to diagnosis and treatment.

According to WHO), 1.5 million people will die and over 10 million people will have TB in 2020.

Although extrapulmonary TB can sometimes affect other regions of the body, pulmonary TB usually affects the lungs. TB can cause life-threatening complications and even death if treatment is not received. However, this condition may be controlled and eradicated with the use of efficient management techniques, such as early diagnosis, suitable treatment, and preventative measures.

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