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Saturday, July 17, 2010


“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted”-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

In the early 1900s, Tuberculosis (TB, also known as consumption) killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe. It was a scourge of mankind and quite common amongst the rich and the poor. It can be found in the bones of cavemen and the bodies of Egyptian mummies. US Presidents who survived TB include George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin Pierce. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of FDR, died of TB as did the poet John Keats, the Bronte sisters, Anton Chekhov, Frederic Chopin, and many others. We don’t hear about it much today because a vaccine was discovered in the 1940’s and for awhile it looked like TB would go the way of Smallpox and become eradicated in the world.

With the disease rare but not gone, counties neglected TB control efforts and it has started to creep back. Moreover the treatment for TB requires six to 12 months of drugs. In some parts of the world (like Russia), persons stopped taking the drugs when they felt better but before the disease was 100% gone from their body. This has resulted in drug resistant strains of TB that are now difficult to cure.

About 1/3 of the world may be infected with TB (in a latent form) with 1.8 million deaths each year from the active form.

TB usually infects the lungs and this version is contagious and spreads through the air with coughs, sneezes, and normal breathing. You don’t want to be on an airplane with recirculated air when a passenger has TB. People with active TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with every day. This includes family members, friends, and coworkers or schoolmates.

TB may travel from the lungs through the blood to other parts of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. Symptoms depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. TB in the lungs may cause:

•a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
•pain in the chest
•coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
Other symptoms of active TB disease are
•weakness or fatigue
•weight loss
•no appetite
•sweating at night

Bottom Line
When someone nearby has a really bad cough, it may be more than the flu. Are you inoculated against TB?

Strange but True?
Wikipedia suggests the possibility that TB inspired the vampire myth. People with TB often have red, swollen eyes (which creates a sensitivity to bright light), pale skin, extremely low body heat, a weak heart and coughing blood, suggesting the idea that the only way for the afflicted to replenish this loss of blood was by sucking blood from others.


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