Active Tuberculosis: Active TB disease occurs when you are infected with the Mycobacterium tuberculosis germs and show symptoms, such as loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, night sweats, fever, fatigue, and/or chills. If you have active TB, you can infect others through droplets in the air from coughing, sneezing, even by talking.
If you have active TB, historically known as ‘consumption,’ you can die if you don’t get treatment – which includes taking about four different medications throughout the day until the disease is gone, which can take up to six months or longer.
At first, you may need to be admitted to the hospital or stay home in quarantine for two to four weeks to prevent infecting others. Taking the prescribed medications for TB is essential in getting better; when patients do not take their prescribed medications as directed, it can lead to a dangerous form of TB called drug-resistant TB.
Drug-resistant TB occurs when the first-line of medications normally used to treat TB do not work. When other drugs used to treat TB do not work either, this is called multidrug-resistant TB.
Treating these forms of TB should be under direct supervision of a TB expert and medication should be given in the presence of a healthcare worker, to ensure the patient is taking the medications. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these forms of TB occur when there is improper treatment regimens and failure to make sure the patient completes the entire course of treatment.
Nelson Mandela, Tuberculosis, and Lung Infections
Nelson Mandela was exposed to TB while in prison in 1988, and it is possible that the reoccurring lung infections that he is experiencing are due to his earlier infection with tuberculosis. However, according to the Washington Post, his disease was treated early, before it developed into an advance case, and normally, TB resolves itself without any long term effects, if diagnosed and treated early.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis Data and Statistics. (2012). Accessed June 17, 2013.
Leung, Ann. Pulmonary Tuberculosis: The Essentials. Radiology. (1999). Accessed June 17, 2013.
MedlinePlus. Pulmonary Tuberculosis. (2013). Accessed June 17, 2013.
NY York Times. Mandela Hospitalized Again Over Reoccurring Lung Aliment. (2013). Accessed June 17, 2013.
Washington Post. Mandela Tells of TB Perils. (2004). Accessed June 17, 2013.
World Health Organization. Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis. Accessed June 17, 2013.
Decoding Science. One article at a time.