Impact News

The Truth about TB

In light of world TB day we want to raise awareness of a hidden health threat that affects up to 1 in 4 students in Nottingham.

The immune system pressures of university life – such as hard partying, deadlines, and moving address regularly – make it more likely that latent TB will wake up causing illness. Fortunately, a simple blood test is all that’s needed to find latent TB so that it can be treated before it can cause harm. In this article, we want to inform you of what Tuberculosis is and what we can do to prevent it.

What is TB?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection acquired by droplet infection in the air, through coughs or sneezes of an infected person. Pulmonary TB (in the lungs) is the only form of the illness which is infectious. Symptoms can be vague and often confused with other illnesses due to common symptoms such as coughing, fever, weightless, lack of appetite and fatigue.

If left untreated, TB can be life-threatening, but is curable with antibiotics, and as such the sooner the illness is treated, the better. Treating TB not only kills the TB bacteria but also stops the cycle of infection. Most adults who breathe in TB bacteria do not become unwell. Their immune systems are strong enough to clear the bacteria completely, or otherwise hold it in a ‘sleeping state’ known as latent TB, however, this can become more active if the immune system comes under pressure from lifestyle stresses or other illnesses.

Who is at risk?

People most at risk are generally people from TB are marginalised communities in developing countries, 66% of the worlds TB cases are concentrated in just 8 countries including India, China, and South Africa. However, the people most likely to suffer TB in the UK are focused in the deprived areas of major cities particularly London, Manchester, and Leeds. Sadly, TB 13% of people with TB have at least one social risk factor such as homelessness, a history of substance misuse or time spent in prison. And unfortunately, there is still a strong stigma attached to the illness which can only be resolved through social conciliation.

“Despite the fact that students are at high risk, TB is curable and treatment is free for all in the UK.”

So, how does this affect students?

In general, students at university remain at particularly high risk of contracting contagious illnesses. Given the proximity to young people living together in halls, eating meals together, drinking and clubbing can often lead to students neglecting their general health. Despite the fact that students are at high risk, TB is curable and treatment is free for all in the UK. Treatment for latent TB uses some of the same antibiotics that are used to treat active TB, but the treatment is often shorter and involves fewer antibiotics.

How can we prevent it?

Much is being done globally to combat the spread of TB and prevent the stigma attached to it. The UN high-level meeting on TB in 2018 demonstrated the power of global advocacy to put TB on the political agenda. Anyone who is concerned about latent TB should call their surgery for an appointment. GP services are open to everyone in the UK.

If you would like to find out more information visit the truth about TB website.

Source: The Truth About TB website

Additionally, if you’d like to speak to an expert, you can get in contact with Nadine.Hilliard@phe.gov.uk 

Sabine McGinley

Image courtesy of Arran Bee via Flickr. Image license here.

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