Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by bacteria that usually affect the lungs. These bacteria, called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, can be passed on to another person through tiny droplets spread by coughing and sneezing. Even the accidental spread of saliva through laughing, singing, and spitting can pass on the TB bacteria.

In the Philippines, TB is the number six leading cause of death, with 73 Filipinos dying every day of TB. Let us look at 10 facts about TB:

1. An estimated 200,000 to 600,000 Filipinos have active TB. This condition makes the person sick and contagious to others. Active TB can occur in the first few weeks after infection with the bacteria, or it can occur a few years later. Signs and symptoms of active TB include cough, phlegm (sometimes with blood), unexplained weight loss, fatigue, afternoon fever, night sweats, chills, and loss of appetite. See your doctor if you have these symptoms.

2. The danger of TB is real. Out of 196 countries, the Philippines has the distinction of being included in the top 22 high-burden tuberculosis countries in the world. This report is according to the World Health Organizations (WHO), which ranks the Philippines at number nine worldwide. Together, these 22 countries (including the Philippines) contribute 80 percent of the global TB burden. TB is a disease of poverty and the high TB burden is a reflection of our economic status. On the other hand, some people consider being number nine as “good news” since we came from number seven worldwide! In fact, after China, the Philippines had the second highest number of TB cases in the WHO Western Pacific Region in 2007.

3. Each person with active TB can spread the disease to 10 other Filipinos each year! This is alarming since there are between 200,000 and 600,000 Filipinos with active TB. Multiply this by 10, and just imagine how much TB is being spread yearly. Hence, if someone in the household has been diagnosed with TB, all the other members of the household should get tested (like a chest x-ray) for TB, too. The usual treatment course for TB is between six and nine months of continuous medicines. The good news, however, is that once active TB is treated with the appropriate drugs, the person is no longer contagious after three weeks. That is why those who are being treated for TB are advised to rest during the first month.



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