‘Will I be alright, Will I die soon, Is it curable?’ The most common questions heard from the patient suffering from TB and why not? Since we have been hearing that it is one of the leading cause of mortality and is still a threat globally. Tuberculosis is as old as mankind and we have been hearing various stories and myths related to TB.
To the people suffering from TB, the social and economic impacts are devastating, including poverty, stigma and discrimination. With advances in study, researches and treatment regarding TB; there are so many myths that needs to be broken to understand the disease.
One of the most common myth that people believe is that TB is not a curable disease whereas it’s quite the opposite if the patients are treated with full course of drug and when there’s an early diagnosis and treatment. TB is genetic/ hereditary; the affected ones are infectious and can also spread by shaking hands; it is a very easy disease to catch; it is just a lung disease and is caused by smoking; and TB is a poor man disease and causes weight loss; TB vaccines do not work; all TB affected have AIDS; TB is this, TB is that. The list can go on and on. Well, the good news here is that the above mentioned are just myths. Contrary to such beliefs, TB does not come climbing down a family tree but yes, it ‘usually’ spreads to those physically nearest to you. And as much as one can get TB, it is not spread through touching or holding hands in fact if you’re outdoors, then you’re less likely to be infected because the organisms get diluted in the air when the infected person coughs out. A total of at least four to eight weeks of appropriate treatment is needed for a patient to be non-infectious. Smoking is not a cause but can increase the risk of TB and it is also untrue in believing that it won’t affect non-smokers. And yes, although TB presents mostly as a lung disease, it can spread through blood to any organs of the body which means that you can get TB even in your skin. Sounds strange right? Anyone can be a victim of TB, although certain population such as immigrants, low immunity, elderly and homeless are at a greater risk. With BCG vaccination program there has been a decrease in TB cases at present. TB can be 100% detected by blood and radiological investigation is also a myth some people believe.
TB infection and TB disease are two different chapters on its own. A condition in which the organisms after coming in contact with an infected person that entered the body are in latent state is a TB infection whereas if the organisms become active and start affecting the body, TB infection progresses to TB disease. Some people consider both the same. And to top it all, TB is always a fatal disease is a belief that needs to be changed at any cost. There is no denial that the treatment takes longer when compared to other bacterial infections but it is completely curable if treated properly.
It has become very crucial to bust the myths related to TB so as to ensure the effective protection against the disease. Alongside myths, awareness of the warning signs is also important for timely detection and treatment. Because of the lengthy treatment and side effects of drugs, patients often discontinue treatment. This is where awareness, proper
education, family and social support is must. Government, non-government organizations as well as health sectors should be actively committed in spreading awareness and educating the people of nation. With the proper awareness and education to all the people we will be able break the stigma, discrimination and myths. People will sooner or later keep themselves in the patient’s shoes and ask themselves ‘what if I was a victim to the disease? Will I be treated in similar way I am treating others? ‘