Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease which is highly contagious and is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogen. TB has survived among human populations for hundreds of thousands of years – indeed, it was found in in Egyptian mummies dating back to 2400 BC.
TB is responsible for 1.5 million deaths each year and the WHO class the disease as an ongoing pandemic – every 21 seconds someone dies from it.
In the past, deaths were more frequently occurring from tuberculosis among more vulnerable individuals including the elderly, pregnant women, children and those infected with HIV/AIDs.
However, because of growing resistance among pathogens to standard medication, it is steadily becoming a bigger problem for communities around the world.
In 2019, there were over half a million cases of drug-resistant TB highlighting the growing danger of this deadly disease.
TB is both preventable and curable so it’s important that everyone takes steps to understand how this silent killer is spread and take the necessary action to protect themselves and others.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection spread through the air via droplets originating from an infected person. Usually, the infection settles in your lungs but TB can also affect various organs in your body.
You can be infected with TB when an infected person coughs or sneezes and droplets of their saliva are in the atmosphere.
Once the bacteria has entered your body, it could either develop into ‘active’ TB or latent TB. Latent TB may lay dormant inside you for years without doing any harm but around 5 to 10% of those infected may become ill at some point later in their life.
If you have a compromised immune system, you are malnourished, or you have diabetes, you have a much higher chance of developing ‘active’ TB.
If you are infected with active TB, you may only experience mild symptoms such as a cough or a fever for a few months.
These mild symptoms means that many sufferers do not seek heightening the risk of infecting others. TB is highly contagious and, if you carry the disease, you may infect up to 15 people over the course of a year.
Currently, TB infects almost 2 billion people worldwide annually with 10.4 million new cases reported each year.
Almost 33% of the world’s population are carriers of the latent Tuberculosis bacillus and are therefore at risk of developing the active disease which can be fatal if left untreated.
There have been many scientific advances in the understanding of TB since it was first discovered.
As previously mentioned, evidence of Ancient Egyptians suffering from the disease have been recorded but it was first identified to be contagious in the 16th Century by Girolamo Fracastoro.
Throughout the 18th Century, it was known as the ‘white plague’. The first cure was developed in 1854 by Hermann Brehmer. Inoculation of the tubercle bacillus first occurred in 1882 by Robert Koch which allowed for the development of anti-TB drugs.
Latent TB refers to an individual who has an inactive TB infection but who present no symptoms. In this state, it isn’t yet contagious but it can turn into active TB at any time so it needs to be managed if this does happen.
When you are ill with active TB, you can spread the disease to others through coughing and sneezing. This can happen within the first few weeks of infection or even years later if your latent TB infection becomes active.
Skeleton deformities from remains over three million years old point to TB being well before the development of civilisation. The first written documentation of the disease was found in both India and China over 2,000 years ago.
The illness itself hasn’t changed but our understanding of it has. Scientific developments throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries meant we could develop vaccines in order to save millions of lives.
In the 1980s with the rise of HIV, the rates of fatalities increased once more especially in New York. In Britain, cases had fallen to around 5,000 per year at the start of the 20th century but they have since been slowly increasing due to the rise of drug-resistant strains of the disease.
In London, the cases of active TB have risen by about 50% since 1999 and this accounts for almost 40% of all TB cases in the UK. In 2009, nearly 3,500 cases were reported and this number continues to grow.
As with any infectious diseases, there are precautions we can all take to avoid maximising the spread of the bacteria.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above you should speak with your doctor. Plus, if you are diagnosed you should avoid contact with others, cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, take any prescribed medication, and keep washing your hands.
For those of us not infected with TB but keen to remain healthy, there are other precautions we can take to keep our environment safe – especially if we are spending time in buildings with HVAC systems.
Keeping a constant flow of clean air in public buildings is an important factor in reducing the amount of infectious diseases we are exposed to.
Viruses can spread through air conditioning systems so addressing this is an important step in stopping transmission.
For this reason, Airius have developed PureAir – an air purification and odour control system that utilises PHI (Photohydroionisation) advanced oxidisation technology.
It has been demonstrated to kill 97% of airborne bacteria and it has been tested and approved against viruses such as SARS and MRSE by hospitals, governments and unions worldwide.
By installing a PureAir system in your home, office, or building, you are actively helping in the reduction of the spread of diseases like Tuberculosis and protecting those that are inside.
The PureAir system works by emitting ionised hydroperoxides, a naturally occurring cleaning agent, into the air. This kills the harmful virus cells and other pathogens which may be floating in the atmosphere or on your surfaces therefore reducing the chance of the virus entering your body.
Airius PureAir fans help make the air in your premises clean, safe, odourless air in order to increase your wellbeing, safety and comfort.
For more information, please visit www.airius.co.uk or call us on 01202 554200 where a member of our team would be pleased to discuss further with you.