Although seldom prevalent in developed countries tuberculosis (TB) is endemic in Indonesia, therefore it is advisable that you become aware of the symptoms, prevention and treatment of the disease.

  • TB is a serious infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease usually affects the lungs, though other organs such as the brain can also be infected.
  • Before antibiotic treatment was available, TB was also called “consumption“. This term accurately describes the long-term wasting illness untreated TB can cause. Patients were often kept in special hospitals to prevent the disease from spreading.
  • People who have been infected may have active disease, or they may show no symptoms at all (referred to as latent TB). Latent TB is not infectious. Nevertheless, it is important to detect it since about 10% of all latent TB patients who are otherwise healthy, develop the active disease.
  • If the latent TB patient has reduced immunity (due to conditions like HIV or chemotherapy treatments), they are far more likely to develop active disease. The patient may develop symptoms and often becomes infectious.
  • According to WHO in 2009 more than 2 billion people, equal to one-third of the world’s population, were infected with TB bacilli. If not treated, each person with active TB infects, on average 10 to 15 people every year.

Symptoms

Active TB causes a variety of symptoms that are sometimes vague. Typical symptoms include cough, fever, night sweats, unintended weight loss and lethargy. If left untreated, active TB can be life threatening.

How It Spreads

TB is usually spread person-to-person. Typically, an uninfected person inhales droplets coughed or sneezed by an infected person with active disease. The disease is not usually transmitted via casual contact. Healthy people usually contract TB only after a long period of exposure to an infected patient in closed spaces. For this reason, family members, close friends and healthcare workers are most at risk.

Prevention

  • In many countries, including Indonesia, a vaccine called Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is given to children during infancy or childhood.
  • Whenever possible, avoid enclosed or crowded environments where there are known TB patients such as hospitals and prisons. People who must enter such places, such as health care workers, should wear specially fitted personal respiratory protective masks.
  • Avoiding people who are coughing also minimizes risk. Consider screening your domestic staff, especially if you have young children in your household.

Treatment

  • Patients usually need to take antibiotics for 6 to 12 months to completely clear their bodies of a TB infection.
  • Patients with active TB infections may be hospitalized for the first few weeks of illness to prevent spreading the disease.
  • Active infection is typically treated with a regimen of four drugs, which may or may not be combined into a single pill.
  • Because it is extremely important to stay on schedule when taking drugs to treat TB, some health care providers administer each dose in person and watch the patient take the medicine. This is called “directly observed therapy”.

Though TB in Indonesia is quite a serious problem, most experts agree that it is not easily contracted by someone who is generally healthy and eats well. Eating well is not a problem for most westerners as they are knowledgeable in basic nutrition and have access to and can afford to buy everything that is needed for a healthy diet. Take a vitamin supplement if your diet lacks nutrition.

Choose well ventilated areas if you are in a crowded place and if you are stuck in a vehicle with someone coughing repeatedly, roll down the windows to keep the air moving. Keep your hands clean, especially when eating with your hands, and carry your own tissues and bacterial hand sanitizer. Avoid touching door knobs/handles and staircase rails if possible.

Thank you to International SOS for providing the information contained in this article. SOS Medika Klinik is currently offering 4 kinds of special TB screening packages until June 20. For an appointment please call: 750 5980 (SOS Medika Klinik Cipete) or 5794 8600 (SOS Medika Klinik Mega Kuningan).

Provided by: Colliers International

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