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Where Do Children Get Tuberculosis From?

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In the course of my work as a health journalist, I have come across cases of babies who have died of tuberculosis, sadly. In most of the cases, their parents wonder where the child got the TB from. Was the child born with it? Could they have gotten it from their mother? Or did they get it from those around them –the dad, sister, brother, housegirl? Or could it be visitors who came to see them then they looked at them with a ‘bad eye’? Could they have been bewitched? Why did they die yet they were on treatment and seemed to have been getting better? Or was it the wrong treatment they were receiving in the first place?

Well, Dr Lorraine Mugambi Nyaboga, the TB Technical Advisor at the Centre for Health Solutions – Kenya gives us an expert’s answer to this.

“TB in children, and especially children under the age of 1 year is quite difficult. Children will always contract TB from someone who has it and in most cases, someone they have prolonged contact with. This means that they will usually contract TB from a household contact or caregiver, and almost never from a casual visitor. Adolescents may contract TB from school. Also, a child can be born with TB if their mum had it while pregnant.

Generally, children with TB will present with cough, fever, failure to add weight and reduced playfulness. Many times, the mother will give a history of the child as having been treated for pneumonia severally.

Once TB is suspected, the doctors will usually ask for sputum tests, chest x rays and other tests depending on where the TB is located. It is possible to have TB of the lungs (which is the most common), the spine, brain and other places in the body, so tests may depend on whether the TB is located.

Once TB has been confirmed, all household contacts of that child must be screened for TB in order for them to be treated. Treatment of TB in children just as in adults is 6 months long and adherence to medications is imperative for them to be cured. Most importantly, TB can be prevented, and if treated on time, it can be cured.

Death usually occurs if diagnosed late or treatment is not consistent.”

Hope that information from Dr. Mugambi has given you some valuable information. One thing I know for sure is that TB drugs must be taken as prescribed without fail. No defaulting. Adherence is key.

Share this information with those around you.

*Top image: New mothers receiving health information at a clinic in Kawangware.

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