Jan 15, 2013

Answers to Frequently-Asked Questions on Tuberculosis

Today is our last day here in the TB DOTS center and for the past couple of weeks there has been a lot of doubts that have been clarified and new information on how to manage Tuberculosis.  The above image snippet is a recreation of a chart we have in our desk.  You can print it, download it and share it with friends, family and co-workers.  You may download the file here.  You may also read the whole information right after the jump.

What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.

How does one get TB?
A person gets infected with TB if he inhales the TB bacteria released from air droplets when a person with TB coughs, sneezes or spits.

What are the signs and symptoms of TB?
A person is suspected to have TB when he/she has cough of two weeks or more, with or without the following: weight loss, back or chest pains, afternoon fever and night sweats, hemoptysis or blood-tined sputum, weakness and loss of appetite.

Can a person die of TB?
Yes, if the disease is not diagnosed early enough and if a patient does not comply that treatment regimen of daily intake of TB medicines for 6-8 months.

Is TB hereditary?
No, TB is not hereditary. Bacteria causing TB come from air droplets from a person with TB when he/she coughs, sneezes or spits.

Can one contract TB from doing heavy work?
NO, but if heavy work leads to a lowering of body resistance, the probability of catching the disease becomes higher when a person inhales the TB bacteria.

Can one contract TB from too much drinking and smoking?
No, but excessive drinking or smoking may weaken a person's body resistance and, therefore, the probability of catching the disease becomes higher when a person inhales the TB bacteria.

Is there a need to separate the personal belongings, especially utensils of the TB patient?
No, because TB is transmitted mainly through inhalation of air droplets.

Does TB afflict only the thin, the elderly and the poor people?
No. Everybody is at risk of getting TB especially those with low body resistance due to poor nutrition, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and cancer. Those in close contact with TB patients also have a high risk of getting TB.

Why is there a need to undergo sputum examination and not chest x-ray right away?
A sputum examination is more reliable in diagnosing TB than a chest x-ray because a chest x-ray may indicate lung conditions other than TB.

Why is there a need to give three sputum specimens?
This is important to ensure accurate diagnosis.

Can TB be cured?
Yes, TB can be cured with compliance to correct and continuous treatment regimen of daily intake of TB medicines for 6-8 months plus nutritious food and adequate rest.

Is a TB patient still infectious after taking anti-TB drugs?
Most TB patients are no longer infectious after taking anti-TB drugs for at least two weeks. However, they still need to complete the 6-8 months of recommended treatment.

Can a TB patient engage in sex?
Yes, in most cases, a patient is no longer infectious after two weeks of proper medication.

Can a cured TB patient contract TB again?
Yes, if he/she inhales TB bacteria when the body resistance is low.

Are anti-TB drugs available for free?
Yes, anti-TB drugs are available for free at the health center for the entire duration of treatment of 6-8 months.

Are the anti-TB drugs prescribed by private physicians more effective than the ones from the health center?
No. Effectiveness does not depend on who prescribes the anti-TB drugs. The truth is, some of the anti-TB drugs prescribed by private physicians are the very same ones given at the DOTS centers.

Should an x-ray positive person already take anti-TB drugs?
No. Even if a person x-ray positive, he/shee still has to undergo sputum examinations. If sputum examinations yield positive results, he/she will be given anti-TB drugs. If sputum results are negative, this and the x-ray plate will be sent to the TB Diagnostic Committee (TBDC) for evaluation.

Why can't the patient be given at the start all the anti-TB drugs he/she will need for the entire duration of the treatment?
In the DOTS strategy, it is very important that a patient's daily intake of medicine is supervised by a treatment partner.

Can a patient who is moving to another place be given complete anti-TB drugs?
A patient who is moving to another place will be given an NTB Referral Form that should be presented at the DOTS center of his new place of residence.

Is it alright for a patient who is taking the pill or oral contraceptive to take anti-TB drugs?
Yes, following consultation with a clinician, a woman taking anti-TB drugs while taking oral contraceptive pills has two options: 1) take an oral contraceptive pill containing a higher dose of estrogen, or 2) use another form of modern family planning method. Rifampicin may reduce the oral contraceptive's protective effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.

Can pregnant women take anti-TB drugs?
Yes, many anti-TB drugs are safe for pregnant women, but some may have harmful effects on the fetus. Pregnant women should consult a clinician before taking anti-TB drugs.

Can a patient breastfeed while on treatment?
Yes, a TB patient can breastfeed while undergoing treatment even if breast milk changes color - often yellow or red orange. All anti-TB drugs are compatible with breastfeeding.

What is the benefit of giving BCG vaccination?
BCG should be given at all infants because studies have shown that BCG can prevent sever forms of TB.

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