Every year on March 24th, South Africa joins countries around the world to mark a special day – TB Awareness Day. It’s a day to focus on a disease that still affects many people, both here and globally. You might think tuberculosis (TB) is a thing of the past, but it’s still very much a part of our lives today. We’re going to talk about TB: what it is, why it’s still a problem, and what we can do about it.

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Why Do We Do This Every Year?

We want to make sure everyone understands more about TB and how we can work together to beat it. So, let’s dive in and learn how we can fight TB and help keep our communities healthy.

What Causes People To Get Sick With TB?

Tuberculosis, or TB, is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (CDC, 2016). It spreads from person to person through the air, usually when someone with TB in their lungs coughs, sneezes, speaks, or even just breathes out. Not everyone who breathes in the TB bacteria gets sick, though (CDC, 2022).

Our bodies are pretty good at fighting off germs, but sometimes, especially if a person’s immune system is weak, the bacteria can take hold and start to grow (CDC, 2016). This means that people who are already struggling with health issues, like HIV, or those who have habits that weaken their immune systems, like smoking, are more likely to get sick with TB if they come into contact with the bacteria (CDC, 2016). It’s also more common in places where lots of people live close together, making it easier for the bacteria to spread (CDC, 2016).

When To Get Tested For TB

Knowing when to get tested for TB is crucial for early detection and treatment, helping prevent the disease from worsening or spreading to others. It’s important to consider testing if you’re experiencing symptoms commonly associated with TB.

TB Symptoms

Symptoms include a persistent cough that lasts for three weeks or longer, unexplained weight loss, night sweats, fever, and feeling unusually tired or weak. Also, if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has TB, it’s a good idea to get tested, even if you’re not showing any symptoms yet.

Remember, TB is treatable and curable, but catching it early is key to a successful recovery.

How To Get Tested?

Getting tested for TB at Epicentre’s walk-in lab is a straightforward and crucial step towards ensuring your health and the well-being of those around you. Epicentre offers two primary tests for TB detection: the ZN/AFB smear and the AFB + TB Culture. Here’s how to go about getting tested:

1. No Appointment Needed But You Can Book: Simply walk into Epicentre’s lab during their operating hours. There’s no need to make an appointment, making it convenient for you to get tested at a time that suits you best.

2. Preparation: While there’s no special preparation needed for the TB tests, it’s helpful to bring any medical records or referrals from your healthcare provider if you have them. Also, remember to bring a form of identification.

3. Testing Procedure for ZN/AFB Smear: This test involves taking a sample of your sputum (the mucus that you cough up from your lungs). You’ll be asked to cough up sputum into a sterile container.

4. Testing Procedure for AFB + TB Culture: This test also starts with collecting a sputum sample. In addition to examining the sample under a microscope, it’s also cultured to grow any TB bacteria present. This process takes longer than the ZN/AFB smear, usually a few weeks, but it helps to confirm the diagnosis and determine the best antibiotics for treatment.

5. Results: The results of the ZN/AFB smear can be available relatively quickly, often within a day or two. The AFB + TB Culture takes longer, typically several weeks, due to the time needed to grow the bacteria. Once your results are ready, you’ll be contacted to discuss the findings and any next steps.

6. Follow-Up: If your test results indicate TB, you’ll be guided on the treatment process, which is crucial for your recovery and to prevent the spread of the disease. Follow-up tests may be required to monitor your response to treatment.

Learn More About Our Walk-In Lab

Epicentre has an extensive walk-in testing centre for both rapid and lab tests. Learn more here.

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