Yes! We Can End TB

World TB Day, observed annually on March 24th, aims to raise public awareness that tuberculosis remains a prevalent epidemic in much of the world, claiming the lives of nearly 1.5 million people each year, primarily in developing countries.

This year’s theme, “Yes! We Can End TB,” emphasises increased engagement from those affected by TB, communities, and civil society, who are leading the movement towards its eradication.


How Tuberculosis Spreads

  • Tuberculosis can spread through the air when a person with the illness coughs, sneezes, or sings. These releases tiny droplets containing the bacteria, which can be inhaled by others.
  • Crowded spaces and living conditions increase the risk of transmission. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, are at higher risk than healthy individuals.
  • Antibiotic treatment exists for tuberculosis, but some bacterial strains have developed resistance, making treatment more challenging.


Symptoms and Stages of Tuberculosis

When TB bacteria establish themselves and multiply within the lungs, it is called a TB infection. This infection can progress through three stages, each with varying symptoms:

  1. Primary TB Infection:
  • Immune system cells locate and contain the bacteria. In some cases, the immune system eliminates them entirely. However, some bacteria may survive and multiply.
  • Most individuals experience no symptoms during this stage. Some might develop flu-like symptoms, including:
    • Low fever
    • Fatigue
    • Cough
  1. Latent TB Infection:
  • This stage follows the primary infection as the immune system surrounds the infected lung tissue with a wall, effectively containing the bacteria and preventing further harm. However, the bacteria remain alive, and individuals remain infected but without symptoms.
  1. Active TB Disease:
  • Active TB disease occurs when the immune system fails to control the infection, allowing the bacteria to spread and damage lung tissue or other parts of the body. While it can develop soon after the primary infection, it often emerges after months or even years of a latent infection.

Symptoms of Active TB Disease (Lungs):

  • These symptoms typically develop gradually and worsen over several weeks, and may include:
    • Cough (possibly bloody or with mucus)
    • Chest pain
    • Pain when breathing or coughing
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Night sweats
    • Weight loss
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fatigue
    • Feeling unwell


Symptoms of Active TB Disease (Children):

Symptoms vary depending on age:

  • Teenagers: similar symptoms to adults.
  • 1-12 years: fever, weight loss.
  • Infants: failure to thrive (not growing or gaining weight), fussiness, vomiting, poor feeding, bulging fontanel (soft spot on the head), poor reflexes.


When to see a doctor

Since TB symptoms can resemble those of other illnesses, consult your healthcare provider if you experience symptoms that don’t improve with rest after a few days.