Tuberculosis as Global Health Risk

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the leading causes of death in various populations around the world. TB is a highly infectious lung disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs releasing the bacteria into the air where it is suspended in tiny droplets before being inhaled by another person. According to the CDC (2019), the national incidence rate of TB in the US in 2018 was at 2.8 cases per 100,000 persons, which means 9,025 cases were reported. Globally, 1.5 million people died of TB in 2018 and an estimated 10 million were infected with the disease – “5.7 million men, 3.2 million women, and 1.1 million children” (WHO, 2020, para. 1). However, the global annual TB cases are falling at a rate of 2 percent, which could be increased to 4 percent to address this problem in line with End TB Strategy milestones.

The contributing factors of the high prevalence rates of TB globally include a weakened immune system, traveling or living in some areas, poverty, and substance use. When the immune system is compromised due to underlying conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, severe kidney disease, malnutrition, and cancer among other related health problems, a person is likely to contract TB. In addition, given the airborne nature of transmission, traveling or living in areas with high cases of TB increases the chances of exposure and infection. Poverty leads to the lack of proper medical care, and thus preventing TB becomes a challenge, which is a major contributing aspect of the high global incidence rates. Drug users are likely to have compromised immunity and poor health, which increases the risk of TB infections.

TB prevention includes a myriad of strategies. First, living spaces should be well aerated and clean. Infected people should stay at home, take the appropriate medications, cover their mouths when sneezing, and wear masks where possible to avoid the transmission of the disease. Additionally, latent TB (it cannot be transmitted) can be easily treated by using antibiotics and prevent it from progressing to active TB, which is contagious. Children are immunized against TB using the bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines as a prevention strategy (Mayo Clinic, 2020).

The major signs and symptoms of TB include coughing that lasts for more than three weeks, having blood in sputthe um, difficulties in breathing accompanied with chest pains, sudden weight loss, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, chills, and night sweats. However, TB occurs in two phases – latent TB and active TB. In latent TB, people have the Mycobacterium tuberculosis in their bodies that it is inactive, and thus it does not have any symptoms. The active TB phase occurs when the bacterium becomes active and causes sickness hence signs and symptoms.

TB is diagnosed through physical examination whereby a doctor uses a stethoscope to monitor the lungs and the status of lymph nodes. In the laboratory, a simple skin test is used for diagnosis whereby a small amount of PPD tuberculin is placed under the skin and inspected after 48 hours to see if the point of injection is swollen (Mayo Clinic, 2020). However, blood tests, sputum tests, and imaging are becoming common diagnostic methods for TB in modern times.

Advanced practice nurses (APNs) play a central role in the management of TB. These professionals ensure that the right diagnosis is done and the appropriate intervention protocols activated (Temoteo et al., 2019). Nurses ensure that patients complete their therapy and maintain healthy and safe lifestyles to avoid transmission. As educators, APNs educate patients on the best ways to avoid contracting this disease or spreading it to others. Additionally, APNs are involved in research to come up with novel ways of treating and preventing TB in various populations. Nurses could also be involved in policymaking concerning TB to ensure that communities receive the needed support to deal with this health condition.

TB is treated using antibiotics, with the commonly available drugs being isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. Under normal circumstances, one drug is enough to treat TB, but in cases where the drug-resistant strain is involved, multiple drugs should be used (Mayo Clinic, 2020). In follow-up care, patients are required to visit their care providers after a given time for assessment. Nurses could also contact their patients, where possible, to ensure that they carefully follow the stated directions for taking medications.

TB is an infectious disease, which is among the leading causes of death and morbidity. It is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and it could occur as latent or active TB. Globally, the incidence rates are falling, but TB is one of the diseases with high burdens to communities. In the US, the prevalence rate is at 2.8 cases per 100,000 people, but globally the rates are higher. Vaccinating children using the BCG vaccine is one of the effective ways of preventing this disease. For treatment, various antibiotics are available and patients are encouraged to follow directions and complete the course of their medications to avoid the development of the drug-resistant strain of TB.


CDC. Trends in tuberculosis, 2018. Web.

Mayo Clinic. (2020). . Web. 

Temoteo, R. A., Carvalho, J. D., Lira, A. C., Lima, M. A. & Sousa, Y. G. (2019). Nursing in adherence to treatment of tuberculosis and health technologies in the context of primary care. Escola Anna Nery, 23(3), 1-6.

WHO. (2020). Tuberculosis. Web.

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