TB In Our Backyard

March 20, 2015

Sick Woman Coughing28 people in a Kansas high school have tested positive for tuberculosis… more may test positive after follow-up testing at the end of the incubation period.

How did a tuberculosis outbreak happen in the middle of America? Authorities don’t know where the first patient to test positive to picked it up, but I don’t think it should be that hard to guess!

Both coasts have ongoing tuberculosis problems. Why don’t you hear more about them? It starts in the homeless population, then works its way up. Occasionally, something will make headlines—there was a wanted homeless man in California who tested positive but didn’t show up for treatment not long ago, as well as a raging TB outbreak in the overcrowded CA prison system. Then in Florida, there’s the hush-hush Jacksonville area outbreak.

But here’s the real catch: it’s expensive and time-consuming to treat TB. It’s easy for those headlines to disappear from the news cycle before anything is resolved. And even if you get one identified homeless man into treatment, it’s pretty easy for funding or attention to wane, and for him to end up back on the street—still infected. (That’s what started the Florida outbreak).

So it’s not a huge surprise that TB ended up in Kansas. We have these huge, hard to smother out outbreaks going on—and awareness is pretty low. It’s not a risk for the average person (until, of course, it is, like with the Kansas outbreak!).

Why is TB so hard to treat? It evolves fast, and has developed severe antibiotic resistance. The strength of antibiotic needed to treat TB comes with such severe side-effects that it can be worse than the disease itself! And because of that, it’s hard for patients to stay the course with the minimum 6 months of treatment. No one wants to pay for 6 months of a hospital stay (in what would have to be an air-quarantined room, since TB is highly contagious), so nurses are tasked with home visits to ensure that medication is taken. For 6 months. See how expensive and tedious this gets?

Where does that leave things? Well, hopefully alternatives to current antibiotics will hurry through testing and development (although wouldn’t it be nice if they admitted their error and went back to time-tested and traditionally used colloidal silver?). Tuberculosis, and antibiotic resistance in general, is one of the top 3 things experts say we need to be worrying about—but aren’t.

What you can do:

-See a doctor for symptoms of severe cough, fatigue, weight loss/lack of appetite, fever/night sweats, and the hallmark: coughing up blood. (All those, or any of those that are persistent or severe warrant an office visit). Get TB ruled out for the sake of you and everyone you make contact with each day!

-Keep your immune system strong. Good habits like eating lots of produce, exercising, sleeping enough, and supporting yourself with colloidal silver are a good start. When you know what you feel like healthy, you’ll notice when something goes wrong more quickly!

-Spread awareness about TB. Antibiotics have held it back for a few decades, but that dam is about to burst. Since most people take good health/antibiotics for granted, there’s going to be quite a shock!

What are your thoughts on the outbreak? Share with us in the comments!

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