While many battles against the disease have been won, the rise of drug-resistant Tuberculosis (TB) has meant that health practitioners, scientists and researchers have had to galvanize their approach, to find new ways to cure this communicable disease.
World TB Day
This year, World TB Day focuses on finding ways to “Unite to End TB”. As World TB Day is acknowledged on the 24th of March each year, this day is designed to build public awareness around the epidemic, and commemorates the day Dr Robert Koch revealed to the world the cause of TB, the TB bacillus. As part of this approach, we look at the ways South African scientists are working to defeat TB and helping more and more people to access vital treatment regimes.
TB in South Africa
Unfortunately, South Africa has an incredibly high burden of disease when it comes to TB, with 425 million US Dollars having been devoted to the fight against the disease in 2016. Just as South Africa had begun to win the battle against increasingly frightening TB statistics, a new strain of the disease was discovered, and traced back to the 1950s, by epidemiologists based at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH), the Broad Institute of MIT, and Harvard University in the USA. Known as XDR-TB, this strain of TB is highly drug-resistant, leaving patients with very few, effective, treatment options. Alarmingly too, because of TB patients not completing their course of treatment, new strains of the disease have been found to be incurable. This is known as programmatically incurable TB and it presents the biggest threat yet in the fight against the disease.
What You Can Do
While TB is considered a communicable disease, there are ways to prevent infection. These include:
- If someone you know has been diagnosed with TB, do not spend too much time with them in enclosed spaces, at least for the first two weeks of their treatment schedule.
- Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or holding your hands near your mouth and nose.
- Because TB is an airborne disease, using a face mask if you work in a place where people with TB are cared for, is essential.
- If you do become infected with TB, or suspect you may have been, head to your doctor or clinic immediately to get tested. If you are diagnosed with TB, stick to your treatment until the course is finished, even if you do begin to feel better. It is highly important that you finish your round of TB treatment correctly.
LifeDoc Can Help
LifeDoc™ is here to help. Now available for download as an Android app (with iOS coming soon!), LifeDoc™ helps you take charge of your personal health information, while making it easier to keep track of appointments, schedule those check-ups and securely store your personal health records. Register here or like the LifeDoc™ Facebook page for regular updates. You can also stay on track with LifeDoc™ developments on Twitter.