What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.
TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected. About one-third of the world's population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.
People infected with TB bacteria have a lifetime risk of falling ill with TB of 10%. However, persons with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.
When a person develops active TB (disease), the symptoms (cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss etc.) may be mild for many months. This can lead to delays in seeking care, and results in transmission of the bacteria to others. People ill with TB can infect up to 10-15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. Without proper treatment up to two-thirds of people ill with TB will die.
In Nepal, Tuberculosis remains a major public health problem, therefore the National tuberculosis center was established. With the assistance of the World Health Organization (WHO), the government provides BCG vaccination for the prevention of tuberculosis and distributes drugs to all patients, free of charge. In 2017, 31,764 new cases of TB were registered, 5.6% of cases of childhood TB. The BCG vaccination is given at birth, as part of the National childhood immunization program, and according to the latest estimations by the WHO the coverage of the vaccine in Nepal is 97.5%.
1. WHO – what is tuberculosis?
Nepal – WHO and UNICEF estimates of immunization coverage 2016