Testing for TB is Important
Keep up with your regular tests and medical follow-ups despite COVID-19
World TB Day falls on 24 March 2022. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis was steadily making gains across the globe. But due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, tuberculosis services as with many others, were disrupted in 2020 with the impact on TB having been particularly severe.
Foster Mohale, spokesperson for the South African National Department of Health, says COVID-19 did not only affect TB services but the whole health system. He says with the alert level restrictions, people were unable to move around freely, thus impacting on services that included but were not limited to diagnoses.
The South African Health Department has a catch-up plan to trace those patients who were diagnosed with TB but had not started on treatment and those who interrupted treatment during the lockdown and link them back to treatment. “We plan to trace, screen, and test people for both TB and COVID-19,” said Mohale.
Make an appointment with your doctor immediately if you begin to show any of the following symptoms:
- A bad and persistent cough lasting longer than 2 weeks
- Pain in the chest
- Coughing up blood in the sputum
- Extremely tired and weak
- A loss of appetite
- Rapid weight loss
- Night sweats
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen glands
TB germs may lie dormant in an infected person’s body, cause no symptoms and may not be infectious (this is called latent TB). But those with active germs are highly infectious and need to be tested.
There are a few different tests that are used to detect TB bacteria in the body: the TB skin test (TST) and TB blood tests, sputum tests, chest X-rays and an MRI. A positive TB skin test or TB blood test only tells that a person has been infected with TB bacteria. It does not tell whether the person has latent TB infection (LTBI) or has progressed to TB disease. Other tests, such as a chest X-ray and a sample of sputum, are needed to see whether the person has TB disease.
Patients are urged to continue with their usual medical check-ups. Encourage others to do so as well. If you have a persistent cough, please contact your doctor. You should be evaluated for both TB and COVID-19, says the health department.
Remember, with the correct diagnosis and treatment, tuberculosis is curable.
Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.