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Friday, 09 March 2012 14:38

A prevailing communicable disease – Tuberculosis

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Tuberculosis is a very contagious disease but thanks to effective medicines, it is now possible to get a better treatment. While in the 70s more than 500 Mauritians were being affected every year, this figure has today been reduced to one hundred or so. 
The two recent cases of tuberculosis (TB) in two adults have raised questions in the public. While some are wondering on a possible epidemic of tuberculosis, others are questioning the control of the disease to limit its proliferation. Dr Subraj Mudhoo, specialist in respiratory diseases, reassures that there is no epidemic in the country. “Everything is under control. Tuberculosis was never really eradicated in Mauritius, contrary to popular belief. Each year we register hundred new cases,” the doctor points out.

TB is an infectious disease which is caused by the bacteria Koch bacillus. It is contagious when it affects the lungs and is transmitted by spit and spray of spits. The doctor underlines that the lungs are affected when the disease has reached an advanced stage which is why it takes between four and eight weeks before the first symptoms manifest, that is, fever and dizziness. The microbe then goes into the latent phase. “It takes several months, even years before the microbes re-activate and proliferate by affecting the lungs and TB develops. However, not all infected persons will necessarily develop the disease; some 10% of infected persons do not develop the disease,” he explains.

People who have a weak immune system are more vulnerable, points out Dr Mudhoo. Those affected by HIV/AIDS, diabetes and cancer as well as those who are malnourished and children are among those who are more vulnerable to TB. Fortunately, children can get vaccinated against TB just after birth and are immune up to the age of ten.

As soon as TB affects the lungs, the following symptoms manifest: fever, chronic coughs, loss of appetite, weight loss, cold sweating at night, blood in spit. However, it is good to note that not all chronic coughs indicate the presence of TB; they can be due to chronic bronchitis, lung cancer or asthma. It is only through tests and analysis that the exact cause of the symptoms can be determined. Dr Mudhoo strongly advises Mauritians to see a doctor if they are feverish for more than 15 days.

The Ministry of Health has a protocol in TB cases. After the diagnosis of the disease through radiography of the lungs and presence of microbes in the spit at the Chest Clinic in Port Louis, the patient is sent to Poudre d’Or hospital. The patient receives treatment in quarantine and that till he is contagious. Even after leaving hospital, the patient has to follow the treatment over six months while a team from the Chest Clinic does a follow-up at the patient’s residence.

The protocol also comprises tests being carried out on persons close to the patient. Even if the results are negative, they are given antibiotics as a preventive measure.

Facts on TB
It can be fatal: TB can be fatal if not treated in time. Complications include blood in spit, anaemia and breathing difficulties.

Higher risk in closed areas: The bacteria can be easily transmitted in a closed area but not in an open space. Moreover, the bacteria are destroyed when exposed to sunrays.

Smoking aggravates TB: Since smoking weakens the lungs and aggravates the disease, TB patients should give up smoking.

Vulnerable groups: People aged between 15 and 59 years are more exposed to the disease.
Notifiable disease: TB is categorised under the Notifiable Diseases at the Ministry of Health. Private doctors which diagnose cases of TB should compulsorily notify the Ministry. Most of the cases are forwarded to the Chest Clinic, Port Louis, and then to Poudre d’Or hospital.

No new cases: There have not been any new case of TB since the last two recent cases. Tests on persons close to the patients have come out negative.

Vitamin E ‘may be bad for bones’
Vitamin E supplements may interfere with the process that keeps bones healthy, suggest Japanese scientists. Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, the Keio University team said mice given large doses had lower bone mass - if the same was true to humans, fracture risk would be increased.

The research at Keio University in Tokyo looked at what happened when mice had not enough vitamin E, and what happened when they were given supplements. Although some early studies suggested that consumption of the vitamin had a positive effect on bone mass, the Japanese team found the reverse was true, with bone health improving in the deficient mice, and losing bone mass when given supplements.

Sleep quality ‘improves with age’

The belief that older people tend to suffer worse sleep may be false - in fact the reverse may be true, according to US researchers. A telephone survey of more than 150,000 adults suggested that, apart from a blip in your 40s, sleep quality gets better with age. Those in their 80s reported the best sleep, says the study in Sleep journal.

The research, conducted by the Centre for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, instead focused on asking large numbers of randomly selected people about their sleep. They were also asked about their race, income, education, mood and general health. While being depressed or having health problems was linked to poor sleep quality, once the researchers had adjusted the results to compensate for this, a distinct pattern emerged. Instead, they found that complaints about poor sleep quality fell as age rose, with the lowest number of complaints coming from the over-70s.

Quadruplet boys born in Bristol on ‘leap day’

A woman in Bristol has given birth to quadruplets, who were all born on “leap day”, 11 weeks earlier. Emma Robbins gave birth to four boys by Caesarean section within six minutes of each other on Wednesday night at St Michael’s maternity hospital, Bristol. The smallest baby weighed 2lb 8oz (1.1kg), the heaviest weighed 3lb 1oz (1.4kg). All four were conceived naturally, and two of the babies are identical twins. A consultant said it was “exceedingly rare” for quadruplets to be conceived naturally. Emma Robbins Mrs Robbins said she was “surprised” when a scan showed she was pregnant with quads. The babies were born after 29 weeks and one day of pregnancy, on February 29.
Premita Leelachand

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