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World TB Day 2015

World TB Day 2015: Fighting Illness With Facts

Tuberculosis (TB) affects 860 out of 100,000 South Africans every year - one of the highest rates in the world. And despite the fact that TB is a curable disease, it’s the leading cause of death in South Africa, according to Statistics South Africa. That’s one of the reasons why commemorating World TB Day every 24 March is so important - in recognition of the date in 1882 when Robert Koch discovered that the bacterium Mycobacetrium tuberculosis was the cause of the dreaded disease.

You can contribute to the fight against TB by learning a few basic TB facts, courtesy of Prof Harry Hausler of UWC’s School of Public Health. And don’t forget to share these with your friends and family, and anybody else you think should know:

  1. The symptoms of TB include coughing for more than two weeks, unexplained weight loss, night sweats and fever. Any one symptom could indicate the presence of the disease - so even if you have just one symptom, you should go to the clinic to have yourself checked out.

  2. TB can be cured, whether a person is living with HIV or not - just take the TB medications as directed by a doctor for the full 6 month course of treatment. (Multi-drug-resistant TB is a bit harder to cure, but a treatment course of 18 to 24 months should do the trick.)

  3. TB is transmitted through the air - meaning it is spread by one person breathing in TB bacteria that have been coughed out by someone with TB. However, TB CANNOT be spread through hugging, kissing, sex, sharing eating utensils, or touching someone with TB.

  4. Not everyone infected with TB becomes sick. In most cases, our immune system suppresses the infection, so that the bacteria become latent. But if the immune system weakens, the bacteria can reactivate and TB develops (one of the reasons people living with HIV are more at risk for TB).

  5. Want to prevent transmitting TB? Cover your cough and keep your windows open. People living with HIV can protect themselves from TB by taking isoniazid preventive therapy and antiretroviral treatment if they are eligible.

Want to know more? Well, you’re in luck, because UWC hasn’t shied away from tackling TB. The School of Public Health and South African National Bioinformatics Institute have actually created a TB lifeskills kit to help high school learners learn more.  The School of Nursing uses World TB Day to hold demonstrations to raise awareness about the disease on and off campus. Prof Alan Christoffels is leading a major research effort into the genetics of TB. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg...