Jerry has officially been on his TB meds now for two weeks so his incubation period is over. We’ve spent the last fortnight adjusting and falling into a ritual of measuring out pill quantities, cutting and swallowing. Followed by milk and cereal for breakfast.
TB medication can be damaging to the liver, especially in the quantities that the doctor has prescribed for Jerry’s two month intensive (it will scale back over the following 7 months). For this reason Jerry has to drink milk and stay well hydrated. His wee is already a dark orange/brown colour and the first day he came running to me worried that he was just weeing out blood. He will have a liver test in another 2 weeks.
I thought I’d turn this blog into a set of frequently asked questions — based on your emails and messages. TB is a disease that does not need to exist and we can all play a role in ending it by being informed and lending financial aid or donations to quality organisations working to end both TB and poverty.
What made you get Jerry tested for TB?
One of the reasons I moved to the city was to get Jerry access to better medical care. I knew Jerry had been malnourished as a small boy but had no idea what illnesses he migth have been exposed to. I could only imagine based on the condition he was in when I met him, and the way he was living with his father (who was still alive at the time).
When we arrived in the city I found him a paediatrician. Worried, she set to work to test him for absolutely everything. He’d just developed a cough and looking back now he was having night sweats also but I hadn’t paid to much attention to it. He had a chest x-ray first which indicated a spot on the lungs so the specific TB test was next. He had an extreme reaction indicating active TB — which is why he’ll be doing 9 months of treatment instead of 6 plus having a really big dose of meds the first 2 months.
How did Jerry get TB
Somewhere between 200,000 to 600,000 Filipinos have active tuberculosis (TB) right now. All of these people are contagious to others, and likely to infect an additional 10 people every year they leave the disease untreated.
TB is an infection caused by bacteria that usually affect the lungs. These bacteria, called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, can spread to another person through tiny droplets spread by coughing and sneezing.
Children get TB from adults, usually close relatives like parents or grandparents whom they spent time with every day. Most likely Jerry’s father had TB and passed it to him when he was small boy. It’s difficult to know how long Jerry has had TB.
Are you likely to get TB now?
No. Children don’t really spread TB bacteria to others. This is because the TB disease seen in children is not as infectious as the TB contracted by adults. Jerry’s paediatrician told me there was no need to quarantine Jerry or even inform his school.
What is the treatment for TB?
Jerry is being treated for active tuberculosis and takes a strong antibiotic that includes 4 different drugs in the 1 tablet: pyrazinamide, rifampicin, isoniazid, and ethambutol. At the same time the doctor wants him taking anti-asthma meds as well.
Will Jerry recover from TB, and if so will there be long term affects?
Jerry hasn’t shown any bad reactions to the drugs so far, we’ll know more after his liver test in a couple of weeks. Provided he continues with the full 9 months of treatment he should make a full recovery. TB can lead to lung damage and also affect mental health too, so Jerry’s energy levels and concentration will begin to steadily improve.
What is being done in the world to end tuberculosis?
The World Health Organisation has a vision to end TB (zero deaths) by the year 2030. Later this month (on 26 September 2018) the United Nations General Assembly is holding a first-ever high-level meeting in New York on tuberculosis (TB) to accelerate efforts in ending TB and reach all affected people with prevention and care. . The theme of the meeting … “United to end tuberculosis: an urgent global response to a global epidemic“.
Having Jerry test positive to TB was a shock and upsetting for both of us. But now he’s settling into his treatment and can take the meds without vomiting (or fear), I wanted to take this opportunity to write about it and raise some more awareness for a disease that absolutely can be eradicated.
Why not take this opportunity to learn more about TB and other unnecessary diseases and make a commitment to doing something personally to help the World Health Organisation reach it’s 2030 target. Everyone can do something, if we will only just try.