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The risk of Tuberculosis in South Africa.

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What you should know about the risk of Tuberculosis in South Africa. Tuberculosis or TB is a chronic infectious disease which is caused by a bacterium known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually attacks the lungs but can cause infections in other parts of the body as well. It is mainly spread by breathing in the air-borne bacteria which is obtained from people already having the infection.  A person infected with TB organism can remain infected for years without getting ill or spreading the disease to others. If your immune system is weakened by some reason, latent TB can manifest into active TB.

The rate of Tuberculosis in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. According to a University of British Columbia, a survey conducted for South African health workers has showed major loopholes in workplace protection against TB, HIV and hepatitis. In 2012, a survey conducted for 1000 health care workers from three hospitals showed that 68% of patient care staff was never screened for TB, nearly 20% were not vaccinated against hepatitis and 55% did not wear respiratory protection when it was required.

South Africa had high TB and HIV rates with 18% adults being HIV positive, out of whom more than 20% reported needle-stick injury or unprotected exposure to bodily fluids. Factors responsible were like reusing already used needles and washing and reusing of gloves. It was also noted that specifically healthcare workers in South Africa were at triple the risk of contracting TB than other South African civilians, and more than seven times had probability of being hospitalized for drug-resistant form of  Tuberculosis.

An estimate of World Health Organization (WHO) in 2013 showed South Africans were around 300 times more likely to suffer from TB than Americans. HIV infection in health care workers increases the risk of TB following infection, and multi-drug resistance which ultimately lead to several outbreaks of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Important factors for the transmission of disease include delayed diagnosis and ineffective treatment of patients with infectious Tuberculosis, poor ventilation, inadequate infection control, and isolation practices.

In 2014, Dr. Annalee Yassi figured out several issues that needed to be taken care of except for improving hospital resources and protocols. The issues were like confidentiality, staff training, stigma and technological proficiency. Dr Yassi is also helping South Africa in applying the health guidelines developed by World Health Organization (WHO) according to whom healthcare workers in developing countries face greater health challenges than in developed ones.

According to Dr. Yassi, a lot of progress has been made which include better standard operating procedures and screening. But still a lot can be done to ensure a healthy workplace for the international health care workers.

In the end, it can be said that there is a need for greater protection measures to be taken in developing and countries with availability of less resources. The countries should strictly abide by the current guidelines by WHO and better solutions need to be found where these guidelines are ineffective.