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Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV, and polio that were in decline in recent decades are now mounting a comeback in parts of the world due to the coronavirus.

Tuberculosis cases that were down worldwide over the past two decades (to 1.3 million cases per year) have risen to 1.4 million cases. Researchers are expecting 4,000 cases per day over the next 5 years.

So far this year, Tuberculosis (TB) is outpacing Covid-19 cases in Africa.

Even in the United States, where TB cases are relatively rare, doctors are seeing a rebound.

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TB is a serious lower respiratory illness caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. TB attacks the lungs but can also spread to other organs such as your brain.

TB is highly contagious and is spread by droplets when infected people cough or sneeze.

Because of the extensive damage to lungs and the brain, TB is a much more fearsome disease than Covid-19. America has taken extreme measures to eradicate TB over the past decades.

On the rare occasion that TB is diagnosed in an American hospital, that patient is immediately placed in isolation and the health department is notified. Contact tracing is done to ensure that TB hasn't spread.

Like Covid-19, not everyone infected with tuberculosis becomes sick. People with latent TB do not have symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis (TB)

The signs and symptoms of tuberculosis are similar to Covid-19.

  • Cough
  • Fever and chills
  • Sweating at night
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • No appetite
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    Treatment of TB

    Without treatment, latent (dormant) TB can advance to tuberculosis and make people sick. Patients are treated with a drug cocktail for 6 to 9 months. Cases of drug-resistant TB are very difficult to treat. Patients may be hospitalized for months.

    Drugs used to treat TB include:

  • isoniazid (INH)
  • rifampin (RIF)
  • ethambutol (EMB)
  • pyrazinamide (PZA)
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    This has been your Medical Minute.
     

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