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FAQs - Tuberculosis

What is TB - Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that is caused by bacteria. TB primarily affects the lungs, but it can also affect any other organ in the body.

Is TB a hereditary disease?
No. It is not hereditary.

What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?
Cough is the main symptom especially if it lasts more than 2 weeks. Other symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, fever and loss of appetite.

How is TB diagnosed?
Tuberculosis commonly affects the lungs. The disease can therefore be diagnosed by examining the phlegm that the patient brings out with cough under microscope. Those patients who do not show the bacteria in the phlegm can be diagnosed by x ray examination of the chest or growing the bacteria in the phlegm in special media in the lab.

Is TB curable?
Tuberculosis can be cured with appropriate treatment. Treatment for tuberculosis usually combines several different antibiotic drugs that are given for at least six months, sometimes for as long as 9 months.

Where can one get the treatment?
In India treatment for TB is provided free of cost and it is available in all Government health facilities.

How is Tuberculosis treated?
All fresh cases of TB (never treated before) need treatment for six to seven months and for those who develop disease for the second time, they may need treatment for eight to nine months.

What is Directly Observed Treatment?
Medicines are given under the direct supervision of some one opted by the patient. It helps to ensure the right drugs are taken at the right time for the full duration of treatment.

What happens if a patient does not take the drugs regularly?
Irregular treatment can be very dangerous. The TB bacteria will grow again and patient remains sick for a longer time. Commonly used drugs may not kill the bacteria. Special drugs are required which have to be taken for longer period and are very expensive.

How does TB spread?
When a person suffering from lung TB coughs, sneezes or speaks the bacteria exit from the nose and mouth into the air in fine droplet spray. When a healthy person inhales the air containing the bacteria, they invade the lungs and travel to the different parts of the body. In the presence of low body resistance the bacteria multiply and produce the disease. About 40% of the population in India may be infected with the bacteria. About 2% of them may develop the disease. It is clear that not all people who are infected with the bacteria develop the disease. It is also important to know that a single untreated TB patient with lung TB can infect 10 people. By diagnosing the disease and treating it one would prevent the occurrence of the disease in others.

How serious is the problem of TB in India?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem in India. Each year nearly 2,000,000 people in India develop TB, of which around 900,000 are infectious cases with a potential to spread disease to others. It is estimated that annually around 330,000 persons die due to TB.

How can anybody help in the control of TB?
Any one in the community can participate in TB control by disseminating the message on symptoms of TB, about the benefits of early detection and prompt treatment and availability of free treatment at all Government health facilities.