Tuberculosis is an airborne, infectious disease that victimizes millions of people across the world every year. While this disease is preventable, it is important to know how to prevent tuberculosis and lead a healthy lifestyle by taking the necessary precautions for TB infection control.
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. This is a gradually growing bacterium that mainly grows in areas of human body where there is lots of oxygen and blood. This is the reason why it grows mainly in lungs. This bacteria causing TB can also spread to other parts of human body and this is medically termed as extra pulmonary tuberculosis. There are treatments available for tuberculosis. Since tuberculosis is an airborne disease, it is necessary for you to know how to prevent tuberculosis bacteria from growing inside your body and with few precautions you can control the infection and prevent TB.
Types of Tuberculosis
There are two different types of tuberculosis – Active and Latent
- Active TB – It is a serious condition. The TB bacteria grow in the lungs and causes symptoms. If the lungs are infected with TB bacterium then it is likely to spread to other body parts.
- Latent TB – This is a less harmful condition where the body is invaded by the TB bacteria but the immune system of your body is keeping it from turning into active TB.
So, people with latent TB do not have any symptoms of tuberculosis right away and can't spread to others. But people with latent TB must seek immediate medical care to prevent the tuberculosis from becoming an active TB.
Knowing the Risks of Tuberculosis in Order to Prevent it
- Anyone who comes in contact with persons having active tuberculosis can catch the infection. People who are at high risk of developing tuberculosis include:
People residing in places with higher rate of tuberculosis cases
- Employees or residents of long term care facilities
- People taking care of or in contact with tuberculosis patients are at high risk of contracting tuberculosis
- People lacking behind in getting medical care
- People using illegal injected medicines or drugs are at risk for TB infection
- People with HIV infection or other medical conditions like end-stage renal disease or diabetes are also at high risk for tuberculosis.
Transmission of Tuberculosis
The bacteria, mycobacterium tuberculosis can easily spread from one person to another through air. When the patient with active tuberculosis releases tiny bacteria-containing droplets into air via sneezing, coughing, talking or laughing, the bacteria can spread. The bacteria tend to stay in air for hours and can easily get inside the body and infect anyone potentially when they breathe in.
It is not necessary that everyone who inhales the bacterium will get tuberculosis as the body's defending system (immune system) can kill the bacteria instantly. So, the bacteria that get into the system, stay in dormant or latent state initially and grow gradually if the immune system is weak and can't invade the bacterium.
Strategies for Tuberculosis Prevention
The tuberculosis prevention strategy basically consists of two crucial parts:
- First strategy to prevent tuberculosis is to stop the transmission the TB bacteria from one person to another and this can easily be done by identifying the person with active tuberculosis and treating them with medicines. There are treatments available that can treat the condition and stop the transmission or spread of TB bacterium.
- The second part of tuberculosis prevention is to prevent the person with latent TB from developing to an active TB which is more serious and can spread to others.
Vaccines are available, which can help to prevent tuberculosis from spreading and treating the condition. But, these vaccinations are only a small contribution towards tuberculosis prevention and additional precautions for TB infection control also need to be taken.
BCG Vaccine to Prevent Tuberculosis
Bacillus Calmette Guerin or BCG is a vaccine administered as a preventive measure for tuberculosis. It was first developed in the year 1920 and it is the only effective vaccine available today for tuberculosis prevention. It is administered to infants and newborns as a part of their childhood immunization program. BCG Vaccine is considered as most powerful vaccine for infants as it provides them with effective shielding against disseminated types of tuberculosis. It does not provide any protection against pulmonary tuberculosis in adults. So, BCG vaccine can be an effective precaution for TB infection control in infants rather than adults.
TB Treatment as Tuberculosis Prevention
The drugs and medications used for TB treatment can also prevent tuberculosis infection to a certain extent. There are drugs administered to decrease the risk of first episode of active tuberculosis in people. Medical treatments can also decrease the likeliness of recurrent tuberculosis episodes in patients.
The drugs and treatments are offered to protect the patients from developing TB infection, but, it does not guarantee the prevention of transmission between adults.
According to medical experts, taking the recommended drugs and treatments for at least 6-9 months can help patients recover from the condition. However, patients are required to adhere to the treatment to prevent tuberculosis and surely they may receive positive outcomes at the completion of the treatment program.
Precautions for TB Infection Control
Patients with active tuberculosis still remain contagious at least for 2-3 weeks after their treatment started. Earlier patients with tuberculosis disease were asked to stay isolated. But, these days medical science has advanced and isolation is not practiced.
So, one needs to take some precautions for TB infection control and prevent the spread and transmission.
- Covering one's nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing can prevent the spread of TB infection.
- Isolation from college, schools and workplaces and crowded areas.
- Make use of careful disposal of tissues. It is recommended to burn or dispose-off the tissues in sealed plastic bags in order to control the spread of TB infection.
- Avoid sharing rooms and beds with other un-infected persons.
- Tuberculosis patients must prefer not to spend long time in enclosed or stuffy rooms, especially if there are un-infected people inside the room or you may spread the TB infection to others. This must be followed for at least 2 weeks from initiation of the treatment.
- It is necessary to use protective measures like face masks, especially for patients working in facilities where many people are working together.
- Education on how to prevent TB infecn and its transmission can help a lot to prevent the disease and stop it from remission.
- It is important to improve the ventilation of the house so that fewer bacteria can reside in the air.
- Some people prefer using the germicidal ultraviolet lamps in buildings to kill the airborne bacteria. This is important in areas where people are at high risk of TB infection.
- Any latent tuberculosis infection must be treated on time, before if turns to active TB.
- People diagnosed with latent or active tuberculosis may prefer using the DOT or Directly Observed Therapy which increase the likelihood of the disease being treated.
All these precautions for TB infection control can help to prevent tuberculosis and make your surroundings a better place to live in.