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What is Tuberculosis

Despite what many people believe, Tuberculosis, or TB, is still a condition that is endemic to Singapore. It has not been fully eradicated, with Singapore seeing an average of 1,510 new cases each year from 2009 to 2018 according to the Ministry of Health.

So what exactly is tuberculosis? It is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. While it mostly targets the lungs, it can affect almost any other tissue or organism in the body.

In most cases, the body is able to fight the germs and render them inactive, which stops them from growing; however, the germs remain alive in the body. This is called latent TB infection. Not everyone who is exposed to TB will develop the illness, thankfully.

Tuberculosis Symptoms and Signs

A person who is infected with TB can show signs of illnesses that include:

  • Fever
  • A cough lasting longer than three weeks
  • Coughing blood
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of weight

You are most at risk if your immune system is weakened. Those who have underlying conditions such as diabetes, cancers, or kidney diseases are at greater risk. As for those with latent TB infection, there is no easy way to detect the disease without going through tests.

If you find yourself coughing for more than three weeks, or display the above symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately. Anyone around who displays the same symptoms should also go see a doctor. You will likely have to go through the following tests to determine if you are suffering from tuberculosis:

  • A chest X-ray

An initial chest X-ray allows doctors to see into the chest and look for signs of the disease. This may be followed by a chest CT scan if non-specific opacity is found on the X-ray.

  • A tuberculin skin test (Mantoux test)

For this test, tuberculin is injected into the skin of the lower arm. If you are infected with TB, a raised lump will develop at the site where the tuberculin was injected after a few days. There may also be severe itching at the puncture site.

Do note, however, that a Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination is likely to cause a false-positive result, so it is advisable to learn more from a doctor.

  • A sputum test

Sputum is a thick substance that accumulates when bacteria or fungi grow and multiply in the lungs or bronchi. During a sputum test, you will be asked to cough deeply to bring up a large quantity of sputum so your doctor can evaluate it. The colour of the sample will help doctors with the diagnosis.

The Spread of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is spread through the air when an infected person with TB in their lungs coughs or sneezes. Those who come into contact with the infected person’s droplets are at higher risk. The same goes for those who have close day-to-day contact with an infected individual.

However, do note that there is minimal risk from occasional contact, and virtually no danger from a single contact with an infected individual. The spread of tuberculosis can be minimised if detected early.

Prevention of Tuberculosis Spreading

It is very important to limit the spread of tuberculosis. When one is diagnosed with the condition, there are precautions to take for both the individual and those around him/her.

During your tuberculosis treatment in Singapore, it is important to take your medication regularly. Avoid crowded places, and make sure you always cough or sneeze into a tissue, before properly disposing of them. Ensure you keep your hands clean with soap and water, while any surfaces that may be contaminated must be cleaned with disinfectant.

For those who are hospitalised, the steps needed are the same. Do ensure you stay in your room to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, and wear a mask if you need to head outside for procedures.

The JagaPros Are Here To Help

Taking care of someone with tuberculosis can be difficult, but not unmanageable. To help ensure that the right precautions are taken and that safety is the first priority, you can count on the JagaPros to give you a hand. With Jaga-Me’s home care services, our nurses can provide your loved ones with the care and attention they need to overcome the disease.

For more information on acquiring support for loved ones, read more here.

Find out more about Jaga-Me and our services here.

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