TUBERCULOSIS is a chronic disease caused by several species of the germ, mycobacterium collectively called the tubercle bacillus. Tuberculosis in man is usually caused by the human and bovine varieties of the bacillus M. Tuberculosis and M. bovis respectively. It is one of the most widespread of all diseases and is found throughout the world.
During the 19th century, casualties from various battles numbered some 19 million persons, but during the same period, the tubercle bacillus slew 34 millions. In the US alone in 1970, the number of infected persons was estimated at 16 million. The disease is steadily becoming less common as well as less dangerously especially in the more advanced countries with high living standards and active public health measures. The disease however will remain a major problem in many developing countries.
Tuberculosis infection results in the great majority of cases from the inhalation of the tubercle bacilli. The most likely source of the organism is the sputum of a patient with tuberculosis of the lungs. When a patient with pulmonary tuberculosis coughs, he infects the air in the immediate environment with millions of the germs which are subsequently inhaled by a susceptible person. The bacilli may be inhaled from sputum which has dried and had been changed to dust. Infection may also result from ingestion of organisms transferred to the mouth on fingers or articles such as feeding utensils which have been contaminated by an infected person. Bovine tuberculosis results from drinking unpasteurized milk of tuberculosis cattle.
The occurrence of tuberculosis is highest among low socioeconomic groups. Mortality is much higher among the poor than the rich. Poverty with its associated evils of poor inadequate housing and overcrowded housing together with mal-nutrition and in particular deficiency of first class protein contribute to the risk of acquiring tuberculosis. Poor health resulting from other infections particularly infections with parasitic worms predisposes a community to tuberculosis. Both sexes are equally affected in infancy and childhood, but the prevalence is higher in males than in females especially among the elderly. Death rates increase with age. There is no established genetic predisposition to tuberculosis.
A confirmed diagnosis of TB can only be carried out in a clinical laboratory. But from answering the following questions, you can estimate your risk of having the disease. Encircle the letter ‘Y’ if the answer is yes or if statement is positive. Encircle letter ‘N’ if the answer is No or if the statement is negative.
1). Are you a city dweller? Y N
2). Have you lived in the city for up to or more than ten years? Y N
3). Are you up to 50 years or above? Y N
4). Do you live in a poorly ventilated house? Y N
5). Do you live in an over-crowded room (rooms)? Y N
(Over-crowding means less than 20m³ of living space per person)
6). Is your diet deficient in protein and vitamins? Y N
7). Do you work in dusty environment? Y N
8). You have not had BCG vaccination? Y N
9). Do you earn less than N250.00 per month? Y N
10). Do you have frequent fever? Y N
11). Have you noticed any gradual loss of weight in you? Y N
12). Do you have persistent cough? Y N
13). Have you ever had close contact with a known tuberculosis patient? Y N
14). Does your cough occasionally or normally contain blood? Y N
15). Do you now have or have you ever had blood-stained sputum? Y N
16). Are you easily fatigued? Y N
17). Do you have recurrent chest pain? Y N
18). Do you have difficulty in breathing? Y N
19). Do you now live with a family member who has chronic cough? Y N
20). Do you live in a dusty area? Y N
To find out the chances that you now have or may develop active tuberculosis in the future, add up all the items you have circled Y. The following table indicates the likelihood of having TB.
15 – 20 Extremely likely
10 – 14 Moderately likely
05 – 09 Average
00 – 04 Very unlikely.