Tuberculosis (TB)  is one of the major causes of death and disability worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9.6 million people were infected with TB, and 1.4 million died from the disease. (2014 data)

In the Philippines, an estimated 300,000 individuals are infected with TB – 10% are children and infants. According to WHO, 14,000 people died from TB in 2015.

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that mainly attacks your lungs. It is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a large capsule-shaped bacterium. This bacterium is carried by droplets from coughs or sneezes of an infected person.  Once inhaled, the bacteria-carrying droplets latch on your lungs.  From there, the bacteria will either stay in latent form or develop into an active TB disease.

According to Dr. Jennifer Sison San-Luis, pulmonologist at ManilaMed, it is possible that the bacteria can spread to other parts of your body.

“Aside from the lungs, TB can also affect the brain, mga kulani, bituka, tiyan, at saka mga urinary tract gaya ng sa bato ng urinary bladder,” Dr. San-Luis said.

(Aside from the lungs, TB can also affect the brain, the swollen lymph nodes, the intestines, the stomach, and the urinary tract [organs] like the urinary bladder.)

The bacteria causes bleeding or pockets of pus in the affected area. Without treatment, this may result in death.

Most of those infected with tuberculosis do not become ill. People who have a strong immune system will have latent TB Infection, which doesn’t show any symptom. The bacteria, too weak to multiply, will stay in the body in a “sleeping” state. If for some reason, the person’s immunity is compromised, the bacteria will activate and spread, becoming a full-blown TB disease.

The signs and symptoms of active TB depend on how much the disease has spread. The common symptoms for active TB are chronic coughs, fever, and weight loss.

Only 10 percent of people with latent TB develop the disease. (McMurray, 1995). These include the malnourished, the poor, and the elderly. Those with serious diseases, like HIV-AIDS, may develop TB as well.

In any case, it is important to have your lungs checked from time to time. Since there’s no way of detecting the dormant form of TB, it’s a good idea to get yourself vaccinated.

“Wag matakot, kasi nagagamot yung TB. Wag mahiyang magpakonsulta sa mga espesiyalista,” Dr. San-Luis advised.

(Don’t be afraid, because TB is curable. Don’t be shy; consult your doctor or specialist.)

Dr. San-Luis discussed TB during the ManilaMed Health Line episode titled “Facts and Trivia about Tuberculosis,” aired last March 14, 2017. To know more about the disease, watch the episode here.

Visit any pulmonologist of ManilaMed and call ManilaMed’s Respiratory Therapy Department at 523-8131 loc. 2202 and check out manilamed.com.ph for more details.