Infectious diseases, also referred to as contagious or communicable diseases comprises of clinically evident illness that result from the presence of a pathogenic microbial agent like for instance bacteria, fungi, helminthes, protozoa or a virus in the host organism (Fraser, 2007). Infectious diseases exist in many parts of the world and Tuberculosis is one of the diseases that have gained prominence in the world for the last five years. Epidemiology refers to the study of the demographics of particular processes of a disease which includes the study of epidemics which allow the application of statistical tools. The epidemiological study of Tuberculosis will therefore greatly help in finding its causes and ways of preventing it through the use of statistical methods and identification of risk factors for this disease (Mackenzie, et al, 2009).
Definition and history of Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is a communicable disease which affects all races and it is transmitted by the tubercle bacillus. The disease is known to have existed three centuries ago in Europe and later spread to other places. In May 1998 and in April 1993, Tuberculosis was declared to be a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders comprising of Health ministers all over the world made a commitment to eradicate this disease by the year 2050. A lot of efforts to limit the spread of TB for instance, free testing and treatment coupled with different interventions for example educating the masses on the dangers of this disease have been used. The main focus is to limit its spread in the short run and eventually wipe it out. It was estimated in the year 2000 that approximately eight to nine million cases and about three million deaths occurred worldwide as a result of TB.
TB has, therefore, been known to be the second cause of death worldwide after Human Immune Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS) and current trends indicate that the disease will still emerge to be among the top ten leading causes of death by the year 2020. Sub-Saharan Africa and Africa in general has been known to have the highest Tuberculosis (TB) prevalence rates. This has been attributed to their emerging economies and low incomes. However, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh and India have collectively formed a high prevalence case comprising of 50% of the global burden (Webber, 2009).
Existence of Tuberculosis germs in the body
Since one third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis, it is vital to ascertain and know the epidemiology and symptoms of this disease. Being infected by tuberculosis (TB) implies that even though a person has the TB germs in his or her body, such germs are often in an inactive state. Such epidemiological knowledge is crucial in addressing the concerns that people have pertaining tuberculosis. The entrance of TB germs in an individual’s body results into a wall being build around them by body defense control mechanisms which enables these germs to stay inactive inside these walls for a long period of time. However, the TB germs cannot spread to other people nor do any harm in the body of their hosts while they are still in the inactive state and as such, the person harboring these germs is infected with TB and cannot be sick. In most circumstances, the person infected with the disease may not even know if he or she is infected. This is the reason as to why even though one third of the world’s population is infected with Tuberculosis, most of them will never actually develop the active TB disease. It is therefore with this in mind that many people could wish to know the symptoms and epidemiology of the TB disease in order to ascertain whether they are infected or not (Hamburg, 2009).
Who are at risk of contracting Tuberculosis?
Anyone is basically at risk of contracting Tuberculosis even though the most vulnerable people are the young children and seniors whose immune systems are always known to be not so strong. This does not imply that only elders and young children can get this disease. Young children who have Tuberculosis Meningitis, according to the Mackenzie et al (2009) have been known to have high morbidity and mortality rates resulting into the death of 15 % of the patients while some 50 % of the young people are often left with detrimental neurological sequelae. People having diabetes and Human Immune Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS) are also the groups of people who are vulnerable in contracting Tuberculosis because of their weakened immune systems. Tuberculosis is likely to be equally contracted by both sexes (male and female) even though the environment these people live in will determine who gets the disease. Several studies indicate that inmates have a higher chance of contracting Tuberculosis (TB) than people staying in nursing homes (Ridley, J. (2010). This is because they live in crowded environments. In addition, several factors present before their incarceration, such as reduced access to heath care and low social economic status also contribute greatly to their risk of exposure to Tuberculosis.
Why Tuberculosis is so contagious and its symptoms
The fact that one third of the world’s population is infected with TB is attributed to the fact that one person staying in a closed environment for instance in jail or a nursing home is prone to spreading this disease to other people around him or her. Therefore, there exists a high possibility that the virus will be spread and contracted by people around the infected person having this bacterium. A person infected by TB may experience symptoms from between two months to several years. Many factors will always determine Tuberculosis symptoms and more often than not, such symptoms will depend on the stage the person who is infected with the disease is in (Advanced or earlier stage).
The site of the infection will also determine the symptoms experienced by the infected person. For instance, symptoms such as slight tenderness, swelling and fatigue will accompany patients whose site infection is in the abdominal cavity while symptoms such as blood and urine and painful urination are associated with patients whose site infection is in the bladder. On the other hand, an infection occurring in the bones will result into swelling while for the brain; the infected person will experience drowsiness, headache, and nausea and fever (Fraser, 2007).
The Incidence rates of Tuberculosis
The rate of Tuberculosis incidence has remained constant despite the millennium development goals which aim at halting its spread and reverse its incidence. One of the reasons why the incidence of TB has remained constant is because older people who form a significant proportion of nations’ populations have developed it because of reduced immunity that is brought about by age. In order to curb the spread of this disease, governments all over the world should resort to directly observed Treatment (DOT) in order to ensure that patients afflicted with the disease comply with the required doses. Such an initiative will give room for the concerned authorities to effectively monitor the patient’s condition and closely observe them and therefore yielding better results due to strict adherence to medicine regime by the patients. The application of this initiative has proved to be successful in the treatment of Tuberculosis apart from the rising Multi-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) (World Health Organization, 2007).
Why the epidemiology study of Tuberculosis is vital
Information obtained from the epidemiological study of Tuberculosis will be utilized and applied in community health consideration for insurance providers’ education division. This is because people affected with Tuberculosis will be able to know the risks they face as a result of having been infected by this disease and therefore seek insurance policies from the providers which will suit them. These findings will most likely help individuals decide the kind of medical care and health insurance they can enroll on unlike in cases where individuals are unable to choose the insurance policies because the don’t know the diseases they are suffering from (Madkour, 2004).
Why results on the epidemiological analysis of Tuberculosis is important
The results which will be obtained from the epidemiological study of Tuberculosis will greatly help Insurance providers to be in a good position to formulate educational initiatives with a view of preventing the spread of this disease at a population level. These educational initiatives will greatly help the insurance providers to plan well by including action steps which have strategic importance and which have great implication on national, regional and even local stages. The results obtained from the epidemiological analysis of Tuberculosis will also greatly enhance the steps which are required for implementation of collaborative Tuberculosis activities by local stakeholders and therefore leading to effective local implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Tuberculosis for national scale up. Information obtained from the epidemiological study will greatly assist the insurance providers to design health insurance and financing policies which are compatible with the living standards of people affected by the disease and this enables governments to properly plan and budget for its population (Ridley, J. (2010).
Furthermore, the results obtained from the epidemiological analysis will help the insurance providers to formulate tailor made educational initiatives based on the rate of prevalence of Tuberculosis and the culture of the people in question. Insurance providers will also be in a good position to establish awareness programs about how TB is spread and educate the general public on the causes of the disease basing on the results obtained from the epidemiological analysis. The epidemiological analysis results will greatly assist the insurance providers to come up with policies which suit people affected with Tuberculosis basing on the stages of affliction and therefore greatly helping them to get compensation incase of death.
Contemporary knowledge on the epidemiology of Tuberculosis has arisen from a variety of anecdotal and observational studies which were conducted during the early part of the 19th century through molecular epidemiology. The understanding of TB epidemiology and biology has been significantly improved by the molecular epidemiological studies which were conducted over the past ten years. The synergism of TB with HIV/AIDS infection and the drug resistant Bacilli have complicated how the whole world understands the epidemiology of TB and its efficacy of control activities (Madkour, 2004).