Dispelling 11 Myths About Tuberculosis

Dispelling 11 Myths About Tuberculosis-banner

Is TB curable? Does TB affect only a certain group of people? Is vaccination enough to prevent TB? All these questions arise in one’s mind when one mentions TB, or tuberculosis. Tuberculosis, caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is a highly contagious respiratory ailment that has plagued humans for thousands of years. Despite advances in medical science and healthcare, TB remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. 

However, there are still many misconceptions and myths surrounding this disease, which can lead to fear, stigma, and a lack of understanding about how it spreads and how it can be treated. This article will debunk some of the most common myths about tuberculosis and provide accurate information to help dispel these misconceptions and promote a better understanding of this important public health issue.

Common myths and facts about tuberculosis

MYTH 1: Tuberculosis cannot be cured.
FACT : Contrary to the popular myth, tuberculosis can be cured with the right treatment. Antibiotics are a highly effective way to treat this bacterial infection. The usual treatment for TB involves a combination of several antibiotics, which need to be taken consistently for several months. When the treatment is carried out correctly, the majority of people with TB are completely cured and do not face any long-term health issues.

MYTH 2: Tuberculosis is history.
FACT : This is a common misconception that is far from the truth. TB remains a major public health issue and one of the top ten causes of mortality worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis was estimated to have caused 1.6 million deaths in 2021 and to have affected approximately 10 million people worldwide, making TB one of the leading causes of death globally.

MYTH 3: Tuberculosis mainly affects people with weakened immune systems.
FACT : While people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to tuberculosis, the disease can affect anyone. Tuberculosis can strike people of various ages, genders, and nationalities. In fact, anyone who comes into contact with an infected person or has a weakened immune system owing to illnesses like HIV is at risk of having tuberculosis. 

Are you aware that frequent illnesses, fatigue, and unexplained symptoms could indicate a weakened immune system?

MYTH 4: Antibiotics can cure tuberculosis in a short period of time.
FACT : This is a widely held misconception. In reality, TB necessitates a lengthy course of medicines, often lasting 6–9 months, to achieve a complete cure. A shorter course of antibiotics can result in antibiotic resistance, which will make future treatments more challenging.

Dispelling 11 Myths About Tuberculosis1

MYTH 5: Vaccination is enough to prevent or treat TB.
FACT : While the current TB vaccination (BCG) provides some protection, it does not completely replace a full course of antibiotics. The BCG vaccine protects children against severe types of tuberculosis, but its usefulness in adults is still being debated.

MYTH 6: Tuberculosis primarily affects the lungs.
FACT : This is a prevalent, but false, misconception. TB can affect any organ in the body, including the kidneys, brain, spine, and others. Extrapulmonary tuberculosis is more difficult to identify and treat than pulmonary tuberculosis, which affects the lungs.

MYTH 7: Tuberculosis is a hereditary disease.
FACT : This is a widespread misconception, as TB is not passed down from generation to generation through genetics. Instead, it is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which can be passed from person to person through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

MYTH 8: When a TB patient coughs close to someone, they will become infected.
FACT : Although TB can be conveyed through coughing or sneezing, it is not easily transmitted. To become infected with tuberculosis, a person must be living with someone who has TB for a prolonged period of time

Dispelling 11 Myths About Tuberculosis2

MYTH 9: There is just one type of tuberculosis.
FACT : This is incorrect because there are two types of tuberculosis: pulmonary TB and extrapulmonary TB. The most prevalent type of tuberculosis is pulmonary tuberculosis, which affects the lungs. Extrapulmonary tuberculosis, on the other hand, affects the brain, bones, muscles, and lymph nodes.

MYTH 10: Getting rid of TB ensures defence against reinfection.
FACT : Contrary to widespread perception, healing from tuberculosis does not ensure complete protection against re-infection. Even after effective treatment, there is a chance of re-infection with tuberculosis. To reduce the risk of recurrence, it is critical to follow the suggested treatment plan offered by a healthcare practitioner and complete the entire course.

MYTH 11: First Sign of Tuberculosis can always be easily identified.
FACT : One of the most difficult aspects of tuberculosis is that symptoms may not appear until the disease has progressed significantly. Some people exhibit common symptoms such as night sweats, frequent coughing of blood, loss of appetite, and unexplained weight loss, while others do not. As a result, it is critical to be aware of the risk factors and, if necessary, to be tested.

In conclusion, tuberculosis is a disease that has been shrouded in myths and misconceptions for centuries. However, in order to effectively treat this sickness, we must first understand the facts about it. Tuberculosis is a dangerous infection that spreads via the air and can be fatal if not treated. 

While certain TB myths may have stemmed from previous cultural beliefs, they have no scientific basis and can potentially be harmful to those who believe them. By educating ourselves and spreading accurate information, we can work to eliminate the stigma associated with TB and improve outcomes for those affected by the disease. So, let’s work together to combat TB by promoting evidence-based information and supporting those who are affected by this illness.

About Author –

Dr. Gopi Krishna Yedlapati, Consultant interventional pulmonologist, Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad
MD, FCCP, FAPSR (Pulmonology)

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Dr. Gopi Krishna Yedlapati

MD (Pulm. Med), FCCP (USA), FAPSR
Sr. Consultant Interventional Pulmonologist & Clinical Director

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