Tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient disease but it still manages to be a major source of morbidity and mortality throughout the world in modern day
In Western Europe, England has one of the highest TB rates with an incidence of TB which is more than four times higher than in the US.
If the current trends continue England will have more TB cases than the whole of the US within two years.
Although TB can affect anyone; a disproportionate number of people who become infected and develop TB disease are from underserved populations.
TB is a reportable infectious disease which usually affects the lung; but can affect other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, the bones and the brain. It is transmitted from person to person through droplets from people with the active TB lung disease.
The symptom of active TB of the lung is a persistent dry or productive cough for more than three weeks; other symptoms that may be present are chest pains, unexplained weight loss, fever and night sweats.
With the appropriate treatment TB can be successfully controlled and cured. We know that a person with infectious TB if left undiagnosed can go on to infect 10 to 15 other close individuals over the course of a year. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are fundamental aspects for effectively controlling and preventing further spread of TB; thus improving individual and population level outcomes.
“A person with infectious TB if left undiagnosed can go on to infect 10 to 15 other close individuals over the course of a year”
Tackling Tuberculosis is one of the key priorities for Public Health England and earlier this year saw the launch of a national collaborative TB strategy, which aims to promote a locally led, nationally coordinated approach to TB control. The strategy outlines priority actions covering aspects of diagnosis, treatment and prevention: including, early diagnosis, screening for latent TB addressing drug resistance and improving BCG vaccination uptake, to name a few.
Given that nursing represent the largest of group of health care professionals; working in a range of different settings the contribution nurses can make in these areas can be significant particularly with early diagnosis of people with TB, prompting timely treatment.
The role of the TB specialist nurse as case managers for patients and their contacts is recognised and important. However, all nurses have a critical role to play and can use the principles of ‘Making Every Contact Count’ through their day to day interactions as health visitors, district, community, school, public health and practice nurses. Nurses, therefore need to remain vigilant about the signs and symptoms of TB; risk factors of TB, local epidemiology of TB and TB referral pathways.
To support nurses in various setting, working at various levels Public Health England developed a ‘Personalised Care and Population Health for Nurses, Midwives, Health Visitors and Allied Health Professionals framework’ that includes specific information on TB.
This resource can further enhance nurses to maximise their public health roles towards reducing the burden of TB nationally.