Each day, over 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30 000 people fall ill with this preventable disease

By Mandy Nyama

Welcome to the MailOnline Health Column. In this week’s edition I am going to talk about Tuberculosis (TB). Each year, the World commemorates World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic impact of TB, and to scale up efforts to end the global epidemic.

Tuberculosis remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer.

Each day, over 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 58 million lives since the year 2000.

In Zimbabwe it is estimated that about 30,000 people fall ill of TB each year and about 4,600 of these, die. The 2019 WHO Global TB report states that Zimbabwe is putting tremendous effort to End TB. Zimbabwe managed to achieve very high rates of tuberculosis treatment coverage and is one of the four high burden TB countries that managed to achieve rates above 80% reaching 25,775 people notified.

In that report Zimbabwe was also noted to be one of the seven high burden countries that are on track to achieve the 2020 Global End TB Strategy milestones for reduction in TB incidence rate and TB deaths.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care’s (MoHCC) National TB Programme (NTP) has scaled up TB diagnosis using the WHO recommended Rapid diagnostic tests with 87% coverage, introduced shorter and safer preventive TB treatment regimens, introduced child friendly formulations and a shorter all oral (injection free) treatment regimen for treating MDR-TB.

In a bid to scale up finding TB cases in communities that are hard to reach, the NTP is conducting targeted active TB screening in these communities at high risk using mobile X-ray trucks.

So what is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affects the lungs although other parts of the body such as the brain, heart and bones can be affected. There are 2 types of TB which are:

Latent TB
This is when you have a TB infection, but the bacteria remain in your body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms. Latent TB, also called inactive TB or TB infection, isn’t contagious.

It can turn into active TB, so treatment is important for the person with latent TB and to help control the spread of TB. An estimated 2 billion people have latent TB.




Active TB:
This condition makes you sick and in most cases can spread to others.

Coughing that lasts three or more weeks
Coughing up blood
Chest pains
Weight loss
Night sweats
Loss of appetite

TB is spread from person to person through the air when people with TB cough, sneeze or spit. That is why it falls under Communicable Diseases.

Risk factors for TB:
People with weakened immune system e.g. cancer and HIV patients.
People who live in or travel to areas that have high rates of tuberculosis and drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Those who use drugs and smoke tobacco
Lack of medical care
Those who live with someone who has TB.


It is recommended that patients take the TB drugs every day for the six months. It is extremely important that all the recommended TB drugs are taken for the entire time. The amount of any drug that a patient needs to take depends on the patient’s weight.

Isoniazid 5 (mg/kg body weight) maximum (mg) 300
Rifampicin 10 (mg/kg body weight) maximum (mg) 600
Pyrazinamide 25 (mg/kg body weight)
Ethambutol 15 (mg/kg body weight)

Another reason tuberculosis remains a major killer is the increase in drug-resistant strains of the bacterium.

Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis emerge when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria it targets. The surviving bacteria become resistant to that particular drug and frequently other antibiotics as well.

Untreated active TB typically affects your lungs but can spread to other parts of your body through your bloodstream.

Spinal pain
Back pain and stiffness are common complications of tuberculosis.
Joint damage.
Tuberculous arthritis usually affects the hips and knees.

Swelling of the membranes that cover your brain (meningitis).
This can cause a lasting or intermittent headache that occurs for weeks.

Liver or kidney problems.
Filtering of waste and impurities from your bloodstream becomes impaired if the liver or kidneys are affected by tuberculosis.

In Zimbabwe screening, diagnosis and treatment for TB is provided free of charge at all public health institutions. It is advisable to go for screening when you have the above mentioned.

On World TB Day, WHO calls on everyone to keep the promise to:
Accelerate the End TB Response to reach the targets set in Sustainable Development Goals. So it is our responsibility as a nation to bring TB an end.


Mandy Nyama is a professional healthcare worker. She holds a BTech in Health and Social care and Public Health. Feedback: mandynyama@gmail.com






Facebook: Zimbabwe Digital News

Zimbabwe Digital Express

Contact: (+27) 834767918
See News Differently
Facebook: Zimbabwe Digital News
Twitter: @realdigitalnews




The Health Column with Mandy Nyama: Fabroids, and what to do about them


Women’s month in full swing, focus this week on Post-Natal Depression


Facebook: Zimbabwe Digital News

Zimbabwe Digital Express

Contact: (+27) 834767918
See News Differently
Facebook: Zimbabwe Digital News
Twitter: @realdigitalnews