Annually, on the 24th of March, Namibians join the rest of the world in celebrating World TB Day. The global theme for this year’s event is: It’s time! Despite great strides that have been made in the country, Namibia is still one of 30 high Tuberculosis (TB) burden countries in the world, alongside Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. By virtue of this, more than half of the adults in these countries are infected with TB, also called latent or inactive TB. In this edition, we narrow down on the difference between latent and active TB.
TB is a disease that can be treated, cured and prevented. It can happen to anyone and may occur anywhere in the body, but it most often affects the lungs. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they transport the TB bacteria into the air. This action mimics spraying the TB bacteria with an aerosol can into the air. Any person close by needs to inhale only a few drops to become infected. The TB bacteria is now in the body, but the person is not (yet) sick with symptoms. It is called latent TB. However, when that person develops TB disease, the common signs and symptoms of active TB will be present. These symptoms include cough with sputum, weight loss, fever, night sweats and enlarged glands. Many people may experience mild symptoms for many months, causing them to delay seeking of care. This causes them to continuously spread the bacteria to those around them. The saying goes: TB anywhere is TB everywhere! We all are at risk because we all breathe. However, some people are at higher risk and may develop active disease easier. People with active, untreated TB can infect 10–15 other people through close contact over the course of one year.
Who is at higher risk then? People with weakened immune systems are at greater risk. This includes people living with HIV, diabetes, malnutrition, children below 5 years and those who use tobacco. The Ministry of Health and Social services offers TB preventive therapy (TPT) to people at high risk, in particular those with HIV, diabetes and children less than 5 years. Namibia also follows the WHO recommendation to test all persons with signs and symptoms of TB (called presumptive cases) with the use of the rapid test Xpert MTB/RIF®. This test simultaneously detects TB and resistance to rifampicin, a cornerstone TB medicine, and diagnosis can be made within two hours.
As a result of living in Namibia, you potentially have latent TB. The following steps may ensure that your latent TB remains inactive and asleep:
Know your HIV status;
If you were in close contact with a TB patient, get screened for TB at your nearest health facility;
Continue to eat a balanced diet;
Ensure good ventilation by opening your windows every day, especially during winter time;
Attend to any cough that lasts longer than two weeks;
Practice cough hygiene by coughing into your elbow or sleeve;
If you are a presumptive case, asked to be tested through the Xpert MTB/RIF test;
If you are HIV positive or a diabetic patient, you should report to a health care facility to receive TPT.
Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals. We all can and should make a difference. It's Time! Let’s END TB.
I am a TB survivor. My journey to healing was an uphill one, marked with emotional turmoil and fuelled by stigma, rejection and discrimination. This negative demeanour of my community caused emotional wounds, coupled with grave concern on the effects of the apparent lack of empathy for people with TB.
My strong faith and the support and affection of my family and close friends pulled me through, combined with the right medicines.
It's time…. To END TB related stigma!
The following poem depicts my challenging journey with the disease.
The coughing seemed to be endless,
The fever, an all-consuming fire
Hot and cold contesting from deep within,
It made me sweat, the sheets were soaking wet.
Where did my breath go to?
My lungs are begging for more!
But the air seems to be stuck somewhere
And my energy, who stole my energy?
The gossipers: Oh, how they thrived!
Look, they said, the skinny bones, the sunken eyes;
It must be that three letter disease
Even the believers whispered, while they turned a blind eye!
The doctor said it was consumption: That killer!
No, how could it be?
My eyes filled with tears, I despaired
My bed became my best friend.
I looked up to the sky and cried: Why?
Tuberculosis! You want to destroy me?
You think you can crush me?
I have news for you! The battle is on!
They gave me handfuls of pills
My loved ones gave more hugs
Six months went by in a flash!
The battle? I won!
By: Karin Husselmann
New Era Reporter
2019-03-25 09:26:09 2 months ago