World TB Day-2018

Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free World 

Each year over 1 million people die of TB worldwide. Despite the facts that 53 million lives have been saved through effective diagnosis and treatment between 2000-2016, TB is still among the top 10 leading causes of death in the world and the leading infectious killer. 24th of March each year, is a day set aside to raise awareness about the TB being an epidemic disease and get support to eradicate it.

What is TB?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that affects the lungs and is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or spits. It can also affect other parts of the body such as the brain and spine.

The lungs are two sac-like organs found in the chest cavity that enable exchange of air; oxygen is absorbed into the blood while carbon dioxide is removed from the blood and exhaled.

Types of TB

TB can either be latent or active.

  • Latent TB is a condition whereby the TB bacteria is present in the body but in an inactive state bring about no symptoms and is not contagious. Treatment is important to help control the spread of the bacteria and prevent it from becoming active.
  • Active TB on the other hand, is TB that causes symptoms and can be spread from an infected person to an uninfected person. Treatment is also important in this type of TB to cure the disease.


A person with active TB can experience the following symptoms:

  1. Persistent coughing that does not go away
  2. Coughing up blood
  3. Fatigue
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Unintended weight loss
  6. Sweating at night
  7. Fever
  8. Chest pains
  9. Pain when breathing


TB is caused by bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis which often affects the lungs and is transmitted through the air from an infected person to an uninfected person through sneezing, coughing or even spitting.

People who are at a higher risk of developing TB include:

  • Those who are HIV positive,
  • Those who smoke,
  • People with illnesses such as cancer and diabetes that affect their immunity,
  • People who live in TB prone areas such as Asia, Africa and the Caribbean islands, and
  • People who live in poorly ventilated and overcrowded areas.


TB can be diagnosed through:

  • Sputum smear microscopy which involves using a microscope to check for the TB causing bacteria in a sample of sputum.
  • Rapid test which detects TB when the TB is resistant to certain medicines such as rifampicin.


The treatment of TB involves using medication like isoniazid and rifapentine for latent TB and others like Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol to treat active TB.

TB that is resistant to many drugs is treated using injectable antibiotics such as Capreomycin. The treatment of multi-drug resistant TB can continue for a year or 2.


  • Getting vaccinated against TB
  • Isolating people with TB to prevent its spread
  • Wearing protective clothing when handling people with TB
  • Not smoking
  • Living in a well-ventilated place
  • Covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing to prevent spreading TB
  • Washing hands well after coughing or sneezing
  • Spitting into a tissues or handkerchief not into the open space
  • Finishing your dose to prevent the disease from re-occurring

Development in dealing with TB

  • Vaccination: With the invention of a TB vaccine, more people are protected from the disease, preventing about 30-40% of TB cases.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: Effective diagnosis and treatment of TB that has been achieved in the past, has helped in reducing the number of death caused by TB by an estimated 37% between 2000-2016.
  • Prevention: Creating awareness on TB has helped people understand better how they can protect themselves from getting the disease and that has in turn reduced the number of cases of the disease.
  • Governments and NGOs: More governments and Non-governmental institutions take part in the research of better ways of fighting TB and in creating awareness of the disease.

Challenges in dealing with TB

  • High costs of developing new drugs and in doing tests to see whether the drugs are effective.
  • It is time consuming to carry out clinical testing of anti-TB drugs.
  • Drug resistance of TB that needs research which requires more resources to tackle, to get ways of treating TB that is resistant to many drugs. This TB also needs more time to treat.

This year, the theme of the world TB day – “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world”, aims at building a commitment to end TB not just at all levels of governments, but also by community leaders, people who are affected by TB, health workers, NGOs and other state holders.

Ending TB is not the governments’ task alone but of the entire community. Therefore, as we recognise this year’s world TB day, let us all play a part in eradicating this disease.

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