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Tuberculosis (TB) Cases on the Rise

Often abbreviated as TB, tuberculosis refers to a disease that has been a health concern worldwide for decades. Despite efforts to control and eradicate this respiratory disease, there has been a rapid rise in tuberculosis cases worldwide, sparking renewed concern within the medical community and public health officials. As a nurse, you must be aware of the growing concerns, understand the signs of TB, and know how the infectious disease is treated.

Today’s Fast CE For Less guide will explore what tuberculosis is, its causes, health implications, treatments, and the role of public health TB control programs.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a respiratory infection that is caused by Mycobacterium bacteria. The illness primarily impacts a person’s lungs. However, the disease can affect several other organs in the body if left untreated. Entering the body through the respiratory system, TB is an airborne disease that spreads through inhaling cough and sneeze droplets from an infected person. It is crucial to understand that not everyone infected by the bacteria develops symptoms. In cases of latent TB infections, an individual is infected by Mycobacterium bacteria, but they do not exhibit any signs or symptoms of active disease. This occurs when the bacteria is present but inactive inside the body.

The Rise in Tuberculosis Cases in the US

Historically, the general trend saw the number of TB cases reduce significantly. Recently, there has been a spike in TB infections in the country. In 2020, 7,147 tuberculosis cases were reported in the US, a drastic decline from 8,904 cases in 2019. However, it is likely that the actual number of cases were incorrectly calculated as a result of overlapping signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19. In 2021, 7,874 cases were reported, followed by a surge to 8,300 cases of TB that were reported in 2022.

Several possible factors are contributing to the resurgence of tuberculosis, including:

  • The emergence of Mycobacterium strains resistant to drugs is making treatments less effective, allowing the bacteria to spread with greater efficacy.
  • TB is more prevalent in some countries compared to others. Global travel has allowed TB cases to spread across borders, making it more challenging to contain the disease’s spread.
  • Limited or poor access to healthcare facilities, especially in low-income areas, contributes to the spread of the disease and results in delayed diagnosis and treatment for many nationwide.

Health Implications of TB

Tuberculosis is a respiratory disease that primarily targets the lungs. A person infected by the bacteria may experience persistent pain in their chest, have difficulty breathing, and experience uncontrollable coughing. Left untreated, the disease can worsen and spread to other parts of the body. Left untreated, TB can lead to inexplicable weight loss, extreme fatigue, and more severe complications that can be fatal.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Early infection of TB may not cause any symptoms, but as the infection spreads, an individual with active TB may experience symptoms such as:

  • Persistent cough (which lasts for more than 2 weeks)
  • Cough with blood in sputum
  • Fever for more than 2 weeks
  • Pain in chest
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite

Treatments for Tuberculosis

Because tuberculosis is a bacterial infection, the most viable method to treat it is antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, healthcare professionals may prescribe antibiotics that target the Mycobacterium infecting the person for a few weeks to several months. If the infection is caused by a drug-resistant strain, a healthcare professional may prescribe specialized medications for longer periods to help patients recover from the infection.

Public Health TB Control Programs

Public health interventions are critical in controlling the spread of TB. The key components of TB control programs include:

  • Preventive Measures: Education about TB transmission and prevention, including the importance of covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing, proper ventilation in public spaces, and early detection through screenings.
  • Diagnostic Tools: Access to reliable and affordable diagnostic tools for early detection of TB infections, including chest X-rays, sputum tests, and newer molecular tests.
  • Treatment Access: Ensuring access to quality healthcare services, including affordable medications and treatment regimens, particularly in underserved communities.
  • Contact Tracing and Surveillance: Identifying and monitoring individuals who have been in contact with TB-infected patients to prevent further transmission.
  • Research and Innovation: Continued research and development of new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tools to improve TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Growing awareness about TB and equipping yourself with more information about this resurging health concern is crucial to helping your patients stay safe.

In addition to being knowledgeable of patient health conditions, so that you can provide appropriate patient education, you also must take nurse continuing education to maintain your nursing license. Managing nursing continuing education courses along with your busy schedule can be challenging. Fortunately, online nursing CEUs like those offered by Fast CE For Less offer a convenient, affordable, and flexible solution to help nurses fulfill their continuing education requirements.

If you are interested in accessing course bundles tailored to help you meet the requirements for license renewal in your state, the online nursing CEUs by Fast CE For Less are available at www.fastceforless.com.

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