Myths and Misconceptions about TB
This month is Tuberculosis (TB) Month Chomas, so you’ll probably be hearing or reading a lot about it. But how much do you know about TB? There are still quite a few myths about it going around that can actually be dangerous if you believe them because you might be at risk without knowing it. Another reason why myths around TB are dangerous is because you might discriminate against someone who has TB without knowing the facts. Some people think that TB is not really a big problem anymore but did you know Choma, that TB is still one of the top causes of deaths in South Africa? Also, someone living with HIV has a higher chance of contracting TB.
Here are more myths and misconceptions about TB:
Myth: TB is a family sickness
TB doesn’t have anything to do with your genes. It’s not passed down from family member to family member. TB is actually an airborne disease so it is passed on through particles in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If someone in your family is infected then you’re at risk of being infected but only because you’re in the same space as the infected person for a long time, not for genetic reason.
Myth: Only people with HIV get TB
People often associate TB with HIV. While it’s true that you’re more at risk of getting TB if you have HIV (HIV weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to opportunistic infections, like TB), it doesn't mean that all people with TB have HIV. TB can affect anyone.
Myth: Only Poor people get HIV
TB is not a “poor disease”. Lack of proper healthcare, housing, space and sanitation puts people at risk of contracting TB and infecting those close to them. Like I said Chomas, TB can affect anyone because it is airborne.
Myth: TB is easy to catch
As much as anyone can get TB, it is not spread through touching, hugging or holding hands. If you’re outdoors, then you’re also less likely to be infected by TB because when an infected person coughs outdoors, the germs are diluted in the air. The germs are more likely to be swept away by the wind or killed by sunlight. To be infected by TB you would have to be in close contact with someone who has TB and most likely in a closed room or space (eg travelling in a taxi with a TB infected person). This is why people with TB are advised to stay away from closed, crowded spaces because they are less likely to infect someone in an open space (especially if they’re only in it for a short time). For this reason, a TB infected person should always cover their mouth when they cough.
Myth: No symptoms means no TB
Someone with TB disease can have any of these symptoms: chest pain; coughing for a long period eg more than two weeks; night sweats; feeling tired or weak; loss of appetite; unexpected weight loss; or coughing up blood.
However, someone with TB can also feel perfectly healthy or show fewer symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms and you think you have been exposed to TB, speak to your healthcare provider about getting a test. Remember Chomas, these symptoms are not just associated with having TB.
Myth: You can’t get TB more than once
Being cured of TB doesn’t make you immune Chomas. You can still be infected again. Also, always make sure that you complete your treatment if you’re being treated for TB, even when you don’t show symptoms.
Myth: TB can’t be cured
TB is fully curable, as long as you take your full medication for however long you have been advised to by your healthcare provider Choma.
Myth: TB is just a lung disease
Although TB does present itself mostly as a lung disease, infection can spread through your blood from the lungs to all organs in your body. This means that you can develop TB in the pleura (the covering of your lungs), in your bones, the urinary tract and sexual organs, your intestines and even in your skin.
TB is curable and preventable and knowing the facts can help save your life and can also help end the stigma that people living with TB face. Remember Chomas, if you think you have been exposed to TB, speak to your healthcare provider at your nearest clinic.
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