Mention Tuberculosis (TB) and images of a wasted person with a persistent bloody cough, chest pain, weight loss and night sweat spring to the minds of most people.
These are, in fact the typical symptoms of lung TB. However, people suffering from Extra Pulmonary Tuberculosis (EPTB), which can affect any part of the body apart from the hair, teeth and nails may not exhibit some of these symptoms.
Take Peter Kung’u, for example. When he developed a mysterious pain in one leg at 26, he assumed it was one of the common illnesses that would easily go away with over-the-counter medication.
“I could feel pain occasionally and didn’t know what to do because in as much as I was taking medicine the symptoms still persisted. With time I begun to lose weight, I couldn’t understand what was happening to me, I went to a nearby health centre and they still prescribed the same medication,” he said.
With no improvement, Kung’u went to Kenyatta national Hospital (KNH) he was diagnosed with TB of the legs, a rare kind of the infection which didn’t match up to the kind of symptoms he would expect.
National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Programme (NTLP) assistant director of Public Health Samuel Misoi says vaccination and adherence to treatment is key to management of the infection.
“TB is preventable, treatable and curable as long as screening is done at the correct time and the right medication prescribed.”
He says many people live with latent TB and show no symptoms because it neither makes them sick nor is it infectious.
“Only about 10 per cent of those with the living but inactive bacterium, which is called Latent TB, go on to develop the disease. This form of TB is not contagious,” he says.
“You don’t necessarily have to have a cough or weight loss to identify cases of TB. It is especially more so in children. If they are less playful or are generally sickly, it’s advisable to consider visiting the hospital,” he adds.
Three years after the shocking diagnosis, Peter still carries on with his day to day activities. He says he is glad he didn’t let stigma take him down. “I couldn’t walk, I had to use crutches to access most places. Many that heard I had contracted TB started avoiding me,” he says.
Most of the time, EPTB is normally airborne and the symptoms normally dwell on the organ that is harbouring the bacteria.
NTLP doctor, Eunice Omesa says, when it comes to EPTB visiting a health care facility is the best thing to do because they will deal with the problem at the primary level.