Communicable Diseases – Tuberculosis

At Iridia Medical, many of our paramedics work in oil and gas camps in Northern British Columbia, as such, we encourage them to be prepared for whatever they may come across in these remote regions.

Throughout the year, we profile various diseases and afflictions to help further their understanding in the hopes they will be prepared should they come into contact with one of these diseases.

This week we are profiling a known transmissible disease that an individual may encounter in their career as a paramedic, nurse or other health care provider. It is our hope that this profile will allow you to quickly diagnose common or rare diseases should you come across them.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium, bacteria which are spread through the air like the common cold. 

Tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections are asymptomatic and dormant, but about one in ten dormant infections eventually progresses to become an active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

In the active stage, a person often shows symptoms of the disease. Active bacteria will usually infect the lungs or airways but may also affect several organs (lymph nodes, kidneys, etc).

Risks

Weakened immune system – A healthy immune system can often successfully fight TB bacteria, but your body can’t mount an effective defense if your resistance is low. A number of diseases and medications can weaken your immune system, including: HIV/AIDS, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer treatment.

International connections – TB risk is higher for people who live in or travel to countries that have high rates of tuberculosis, such as: Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China and Mexico. 

Poverty and substance abuse – If you are on a low or fixed income, live in a remote area, have recently immigrated, or are homeless, you may lack access to the medical care needed to diagnose and treat TB. Long-term drug or alcohol use weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to tuberculosis.

Prevention

If you have active TB, keep your germs from spreading. It generally takes a few weeks of treatment with TB medications before you’re not contagious anymore. Follow these tips to help keep your friends and family from getting sick: Stay home, ventilate the room, cover your mouth and wear a mask.

Symptoms

For active TB, symptoms usually include swollen and sore lymph glands, weakness or feeling very tired, weight loss, lack of appetite, chills, fever, night sweats. For active TB in the lungs and airways (pulmonary TB), symptoms usually include a bad cough that lasts longer than three weeks, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm).

Communicable Diseases – West Nile

At Iridia Medical, many of our paramedics work in oil and gas camps in Northern British Columbia, as such, we encourage them to be prepared for whatever they may come across in these remote regions.

Throughout the year, we profile various diseases and afflictions to help further their understanding in the hopes they will be prepared should they come into contact with one of these diseases.

This week we are profiling a known transmissible disease that an individual may encounter in their career as a paramedic, nurse or other health care provider. It is our hope that this profile will allow you to quickly diagnose common or rare diseases should you come across them.

West Nile

The West Nile virus is a disease mainly transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes transmit the virus after becoming infected by feeding on the blood of birds which carry the virus. It can infect birds, humans, and other animals (including horses, dogs and cats).

The virus is found in both tropical and temperate regions alike and since 2002 the virus has claimed 42 lives in Canada.

west nile cases canadaWest Nile is considered to be the most widely distributed vector-borne disease in North America, and has been detected in B.C.

In most cases, those who have been infected by the virus have no symptoms, or mild flu-like symptoms. For every five people infected with West Nile, one has mild illness usually lasting three to six days. Meningitis or encephalitis develops in about 1 in 50 people who are infected with West Nile, more commonly in those over age 50.

Occasionally the virus can cause serious illness and even death – in up to 4.5 percent of cases.

Research suggests health care providers should be on the lookout for severe muscle weakness as it is a common symptom. Other symptoms can include:

  • Sudden sensitivity to light or an inability to perform routine tasks
  • Extreme swelling or infection at the site of a mosquito bite
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Fever and severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion

Protect Yourself Against Mosquitoes

West Nile

  • Wearing light-coloured, loose fitting clothes with long sleeves and pants when possible
  • Applying DEET-based mosquito repellent
  • Using mosquito nets when mosquito populations are high
  • Emptying any source of standing water (a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes) every two days
  • Removing old tires and cover rain barrels with netting as these can also attract mosquitos
  • Filling in depressions in the ground and check flat roofs for standing water
  • Checking for mosquito larvae in lagoons, dugouts, and standing water on rural properties
  • Avoiding scented lotions or perfumes (mosquitoes are attracted to sweet smells)