To many residents of Anamosa and elsewhere, tuberculosis may seem like one of those old-timey diseases that no one gets anymore, but medical professionals will tell you that it’s far from the truth.
In fact, TB is becoming much more common than it was even in the last few decades. Although treatment methods have improved, TB can still affect people of all ages and health conditions, including those receiving palliative care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice try to familiarize themselves with tuberculosis in case any of our patients have it or are exposed to it. Even though there are more effective treatment methods than there used to be, we want to do our best to help our clients and also keep it from spreading.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are each focused on reducing the spread of tuberculosis since there are unique challenges in the U.S. and in other countries.
Both agencies commemorate World TB Day, which has taken place every March 24 since 1982. The date is significant: on March 24, 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced to the world that he had found the type of bacteria that causes tuberculosis.
It still took several more years of studying and formulating treatment methods but eventually treatment methods were found, some as simple as “get more sunlight.”
In the 1920s and 1930s, there were even sanitariums where TB sufferers visited in warm and dry climates, such as the Arizona desert.
Although TB was generally considered less of a threat in the U.S., it began to make a comeback globally, and today, the World Health Organization calls it one of the top infectious diseases, especially in places like India.
The WHO said about 28,000 people worldwide are infected with TB, and 4,100 people die of it daily. In 2016, they called it one of the most neglected lethal infectious diseases. About 10 million were reported to have died of TB in 2018, mainly in lower-income/developing countries.
At the same time, the organization estimates that more than 66 million people have been saved since 2000 due to various partnerships and global efforts to stop its spread.
However, while success was beginning to be seen, COVID disrupted many of these prevention efforts and the WHO said 2020 was the first year in a long time that the rate of deaths increased.
That’s why many aid organizations are focusing on getting the word out about the upcoming World TB Day. This year’s theme is “Invest to End TB. Save Lives,” and organizers are pushing for various municipalities as well as insurance companies to focus on ways to better help those with TB along with those who want to prevent it from spreading in their communities and countries.
Seniors at risk
Every age group could potentially be infected by TB, but seniors are believed to be at a higher risk. The reasons for this could be generally due to weaker immune systems as well as pre-existing conditions in seniors that could be made active.
Globally, seniors report the highest number of infections of all age groups, and seniors with conditions such as diabetes have a higher chance of being infected.
Seniors battling cancer, autoimmune conditions like HIV/AIDS or COVID or even hospice care have higher risks of being infected by TB.
Interestingly, because TB is a condition that can infect people but not display signs or be active right away, this means that they potentially could be infected and also have their previously inactive strain become active. It could also spread into the lymph nodes and cause swelling.
The National Library of Medicine said it can be a challenge to diagnose TB, especially in older people. Some may think that any unusual pain, fatigue, coughing, or other pulmonary conditions may be due to medication changes, pre-existing health conditions, or even feelings of “getting older.” They may not want to go to a provider either.
Lowering the risk
Since TB infection seems to be connected to seniors and people with weaker immune systems, one method to combat this is to find ways to boost their system.
A health care provider typically prescribes antibiotics as a standard treatment. But he or she may also “prescribe” activities like eating better and exercising more as a start. Getting more nutritious meals regularly could be a good start for boosting overall wellness, rather than eating little and possibly suffering from malnutrition.
Treatment is also recommended and more effective in early-stage rather than later – old-time movies describe coughing blood into a handkerchief as a sign that things are bad, but this stage is actually more advanced.
People can also avoid possible infection – or infecting others – by continuing to wear masks. Although masks worn for COVID or state emergency health rules have turned into a political issue, they have proven effective at blocking other conditions such as the flu, the common cold, or even TB.
It’s also something that people can be re-infected by in the future, so it’s a good idea to continue any positive habits that were successful eariler.