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Drug Resistant Tuberculosis

March 23, 2012, by Ken Jorgustin

tuberculosis-sanitorium

In today’s world I am sure many of you have heard of diseases/infections that have become drug resistant. The ‘White Plague’ a.k.a. tuberculosis (TB), is also becoming multi – drug resistant. For most people, you may have heard of TB by the term ‘consumption’ or the ‘white plague’. Perhaps you have read about Tuberculosis in Victorian romance novels or you’ve seen it kill people on the TV show, The Tudors. You may have also seen it kill Doc Holliday in the 1993 movie Tombstone. Tuberculosis is another thing I think many Americans don’t know enough about. Some of the facts you will read here may really shock you. Drug resistant tuberculosis is real. Tuberculosis is very real.

I worked in health care almost 20 years. In health care, your management holds what are called ‘in-services’ that all employees (nurses, janitors, security, management, dietary, laundry, etc.) must attend. These are educational classes that range anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. They can involve anything from flu season and how to prevent spreading the virus to fire drills.

Our receptionist was tested positive for dormant TB and one of our local hospitals had 2 patients with TB, our infectious disease doctor was called in to give us all a TB in-service. What a wake up call that was for many of us. Our facility isolated 6 rooms in one wing, that would serve as the isolated TB beds if we needed them. Special masks were ordered and we were all in-serviced and ready. TB is a very contagious infection. TB is carried through the air. There are two phases of the infection, they are ‘dormant’ and ‘active’. Many, many people may have the dormant infection, but only 10 to 15% will develop into an active infection. Let’s look at some facts.

“TB disease is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.”

Worldwide, three million people die from tuberculosisevery year. An estimated one out of every three people in the world has a dormant tuberculosis infection, although only five to 10 percent develop active tuberculosis.

…people can have live bacteria “sleeping” inside their bodies for many years. The body’s defense mechanisms prevented the bacteria from developing into full-scale tuberculosis, but have not killed the bacteria.

The bacteria spread only through the air when a person coughs, sneezes or speaks. The bacteria can stay in the air for several hours, making it possible for many other people to become infected with tuberculosis.

In the days before TB was understood, doctors from all over the United States frequently suggested that their TB patients move out West to live in the mountains where the climate was dry and the air was pure. In Doc’s final days, frontier physicians understood that TB could be spread by droplets from the respiratory tract of coughing TB patients and to a much lesser degree from the bloody mucus caught on handkerchiefs or clothing. Since there was no medical cure for TB at that time, the most important method of disease control was to isolate patients, often, if they could afford it, in a privately owned TB hospital or sanitarium.

In 2010, 8.8 million people had TB, and the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that more than 2 million people will contract multi-drug resistant TB by 2015. The worldwide TB death rate currently runs at between two and three people a minute.

Source: multiple including Cedar Sinai Hospital

‘Normal’ TB can be curable with 6 months of antibiotics. But the problem is that TB has now become drug resistant.

Like other bacteria, the TB bug Mycobacterium tuberculosis can evolve to fight its way past antibiotic medicines. The more treatment courses patients are given and fail to complete, the stronger and more widespread the resistance becomes.

Drug resistant TB is not a spontaneous mutation. It came about because patients were treated badly — either with poor quality drugs, or not enough drugs, or with insufficient observation so the patient didn’t finish the treatment course,…

A lot of people with drug resistant TB will face a very unfortunate fate.

People, when your doctor gives you an antibiotic treatment for whatever your problem is (sinus infection, strep throat etc.), take all of your antibiotic! Don’t stop taking the antibiotic you were given for your sinus infection 3 days after taking the pills. Just because you are feeling better, does not mean the antibiotics have completed their job. Finish your course of antibiotics.

I just wanted to make you folks aware of how ‘alive’ TB still is out there in our world. It’s very contagious and has now become drug resistant in some cases. Right now, TB is very active in India and in London. Be careful when you travel. Visit your doctor before you travel abroad to be sure you have the appropriate vaccines that are available.

Many of these diseases and infections are still out there. They have just been kept under control by modern medicine and vaccines. I knew someone that walked with braces because his legs were barely active. He had contracted polio because his parents didn’t get him vaccinated. YES, polio is still out there. The reason you rarely hear about it because it’s kept under control with vaccines, not because it’s gone!

Folks, be careful. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to keep colds and seasonal bugs away. Ken and I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the middle car truck console. Any time we come out of a store we practice what I call ‘cootie control’ and we disinfect our hands with sanitizer. Then, when we arrive home, the first thing we do is wash our hands.

Stay well!