Tuberculosis (TB) sounds like an illness from the past, not something people are afflicted with today. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 25 percent of the world’s population has TB. In 2017, the latest statistics available, more than 9,000 cases of TB were reported in the United States. Older adults are at greater risk for infection, so it’s important to know what TB is and how it is contracted.
General Information About Tuberculosis
TB is a disease that causes an infection in the lungs, which can be severe. The disease used to be rare in developed countries like the United States. However, starting around 1985, the rate of infection began to increase. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say that part of the reason for the increase in cases was the AIDS crisis. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, makes the immune system weak and more susceptible to the bacteria that causes TB.
There are two forms of TB, active and latent. People with latent TB are infected with the bacteria, but the infection is dormant and not contagious. Latent TB can turn into active TB, so the person must receive treatment to prevent spreading the disease. Active TB occurs when the bacteria cause symptoms and can be spread from person to person.
Symptoms of active TB include:
• Persistent coughing lasting three weeks or more.
• A cough that produces blood.
• Pain in the chest, which may occur with coughing or breathing.
• Losing weight without meaning to.
• Lack of appetite.
• Night sweats.
TB is caused by bacteria. It is spread in microscopic droplets released into the air when someone with active TB coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings, laughs, or spits. While that sounds frightening, it’s actually harder to contract TB than you may think. You’re not likely to get it from a stranger. Instead, you’re more at risk if you live or work with someone who has active TB. Once someone with active TB has been taking medications for treating the infection for at least two weeks they are no longer contagious.
During the contagious period, preventing the spread of the disease involves:
• Keep the older adult home for during the first few weeks of treatment. During that time, they should not sleep in the same room as someone else.
• Ventilate the room by opening windows if it is not too cold and using a fan to blow inside air outside.
• The senior should cover their mouth with a tissue when they cough, sneeze or laugh. Afterward, place the tissue in a plastic bag and seal it before throwing it away.
• Have the older adult wear a mask to prevent transmitting the disease.
Senior care can assist older adults who are being treated for TB by reminding them to take their medication. A senior care provider can also run errands for the older adult while they need to remain in the house, such as going to the grocery store or post office. In addition, a senior care provider can ensure your aging relative is following protocol for preventing the spread of the disease, such as using a tissue and washing their hands frequently.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring a Caregiver in Huntington, NY, please call the caring staff at Companion Home Care of Long Island. Senior Home Care serving Suffolk, Nassau and Queens Counties. Turn your questions into answers. Call Today (631) 884-0005
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