Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Airborne, acid-fast bacilli. Lipid-rich cell wall. Aerobic. Can survive in a dry state for weeks. Takes up residence in your lungs and multiples unchecked inside macrophages. Approximately one-third of the world is said to be carrying TB, but not everyone is in the active phase of the disease.
TB can be exceedingly difficult to treat. Here the incidence of MDR, or multi-drug resistant, TB is growing. As I sat with the doctors in the hospital we saw patient after patient. Each one’s story similar to the next.
They had developed a persistent cough. Maybe presenting with hemoptysis, or an afternoon fever. They sought care in a hospital, where a sputum smear was positive for pulmonary TB. Being admitted to a hospital they were started on antibiotics. After the first course of treatment they were discharged and given the medications to continue taking at home. Their symptoms went away. So they stop taking their antibiotics…
Now, two months…six months…one year later their symptoms return and they seek treatment all over again.
Again, lack of resources is an issue here. There is no such thing as “airborne precautions”, N95 masks, or negative pressure rooms. There is only one private room in this hospital, and it is reserved for the most severe respiratory cases. Here they treat anywhere from 700 to 1300 people a month, who are seeking treatment for not only TB but other respiratory disease as well. The nurses and doctors that dedicate their lives to this are truly to be recognized. For going above the call of duty, working 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. Helping those in need, without thought of the consequences to themselves.