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Tuberculosis Outbreak

Tuberculosis Outbreak Essay Sample

As the world continues to be a global village, infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, persist to take a toll on humans. Alterations in vaccination practices have led to the rise in communicable diseases that were considered to be under control. Their spread continues to be a problem for community health officials; consequently, the activities, such as community advocacy and community health promotion, can go a long way to ensure that the spread of infectious diseases in a globalized world remains restrained. Unlike other illnesses, communicable diseases pose the greatest health challenge to humans, especially with the increased globalization. The current paper will concentrate on the TB as a communicable disease that was thought to be under control.

Tuberculosis Outbreak

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the germ or the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, was discovered in 1882 by a German scientist and physician known as Robert Koch (Spilsbury, 2014). It is the second biggest killer disease after HIV/AIDS, and during the period between 1993 and 2003, its incidence dropped approximately by 44% (Spilsbury, 2014). However, the recent TB outbreak on March 18, 2015 at Olathe Northwest High School in Olathe, Kansas, shows that the disease is still a part of American society. According to the State Department of Health and Environment, after one incident of TB at the school, the testing of 300 students showed that 27 more individuals had the active TB (Szabo, 2015).

The Epidemiological Determinants of the Outbreak

The Route of Transmission

The transmission route of TB is the respiratory system. Four major factors facilitated the outbreak of TB in Kansas. Firstly, it is the presence of TB bacterium. Reports indicated that the TB outbreak at Olathe Northwest High School was caused after students came into contact with one student who had the active TB (Szabo, 2015). The second factor was that the students were susceptible to the disease because of the third factor which is the environmental conditions. Finally, in the school setting, there are many instances that students are in a crowded place, either in a dining hall or in the classroom. Coupled with other factors such as the lack of proper ventilation, infection was easily spread.

Tuberculosis is a very dangerous infection transmitted from infected persons to susceptible individuals in airborne particles known as the droplet nuclei. These bacteria are released into the air when the victim with laryngeal or pulmonary tuberculosis sneezes, shouts, coughs, or laughs (Szabo, 2015). The bacterium causing tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) can remain active in the droplet nuclei for several hours. When susceptible individuals inhale the bacterium, they become infected. According to Aronin (2011), transmission is facilitated by the following factors.

  • The person suffering from TB must be at the infectious stage of the disease to successfully infect a susceptible person.
  • The environment must be suitable: there must be a significant exposure, and people must be in an enclosed place.
  • The period of exposure must be long enough for the infection to occur.
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Risk Factors

Although it is widely recognized that anyone can contract TB, certain risk factors have been known to increase one’s chances of acquiring Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Schaaf, Zumla, & Grange, 2009).

The lack of or a weakened immune system has been cited to be one of the risk factors for obtaining TB. The immune system has the ability to fight the tuberculosis bacteria; however, when the immune system is weak, a person becomes susceptible. A weakened immune system is mainly seen among HIV/AIDS patients, young or older individuals, and the malnutritioned.

Residing in or traveling to some regions of the world has been known to increase the risk factor of contracting TB. These places include Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Asia, and Pakistan (Spilsbury, 2014).

Place of work can significantly add to the risk of contracting TB. The risky occupations comprise health care workers, especially those at casualty, providing relief health services or living in refugee camps.

The Effects of the Outbreak on the Community at a Systems Level

An outbreak of tuberculosis can create panic not only among the already infected but also the community at large. Whenever there are reports of the outbreak, the public becomes anxious because of various facts and myths about the infectious disease. When there is the outbreak of TB, school activities might be paralyzed. Considering the factors (discussed earlier) that promote the spread of the disease, parents may quickly withdraw their children from school. Consequently, learning in schools may be curtailed. In the case of Kansas, parents, schools directors, and the State Health Department had to convene a meeting and dismiss the fears surrounding the outbreak. The local government may also be affected by the outbreak of tuberculosis in that quarantine in specific areas should be organized. In addition, the local government may be forced to arrange community education to enlighten the community on how to prevent and detect the signs associated with TB. The business will always form the center of a community, and it might be the first sector to feel the burden of the outbreak. Consequently, people may avoid crowded places such as shopping malls, cafeterias, and other entertainment joints like cinema halls and theaters. Finally, in the event of the outbreak, hospitals, especially the casualty departments, become more cautious when receiving patients. New isolation and test rooms may be arranged to help isolate infected patients from the rest.

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Reporting Protocol

Disease reporting is a mandatory procedure, especially for a confirmed communicable disease. In the event that there is a disease outbreak, the Department of Public Health determines whether there is the outbreak of TB in the community and establishes a “point person”. The point person helps identify community members in need of the follow-up. The point person also completes all the necessary requisitions indicating that there is an outbreak. Further, the occurrence is not labeled with a lab-defined “outbreak code”; instead the point person gives the outbreak a unique name. Consequently, the outbreak is not declared as the point person is no longer filling in the requisitions for the follow-up. However, the DSM Microbiology continues doing their reporting to the ward or site.

Plan for Reporting about the Outbreak

Reporting the outbreak of TB in a community will need validation. However, the symptoms, such as prolonged coughs, painful chests, weight loss, lack of appetite, coughing blood and fever, among community members are a true indication that there is the outbreak of TB. Reporting on the presence of TB in a community can save many lives. Key stakeholders in community health issues can be divided in two major groups: primary stakeholders and secondary stakeholders. The former can include parents or guardians, children going to school and community organizations serving the youths. A plan to notify these stakeholders can be implemented during community activities. The main message should inform citizens about the outbreak of TB and ask them to be cautious when noticing any symptoms associated with TB. The reporting to secondary stakeholders will target people of power in the community, local agencies and departments serving the interests of the community members, local business people and other special groups such as civil groups. Reporting the outbreak of TB to secondary stakeholders can be conducted in the form of phone calls or emails.

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Strategies to Prevent Tuberculosis Outbreak

TB is a highly contagious disease, and health promotions in the form of patient education and community education strategies will help prevent the outbreak of TB in the community. Education strategies can take the form of interventions. Enhancing the knowledge of patients on how to protect their loved ones will be crucial in curbing the spread of the disease. The patients will need to know the process how TB is spread and contracted. Therefore, the main points in patients education strategies should include information on how to prevent the spread of TB and how to take treatment to ensure full recovery.

As for the community at large, education in the form of an outreach program and door-to-door campaigns will be effective in promoting a TB-free society. The use of brochures, pamphlets, and posters can be used to pass information about tuberculosis, especially on how to avoid getting infected (staying in well-ventilated rooms), how to take care of the infected, and the importance of seeking medical attention in case of a persistent cough (Schaaf, Zumla, & Grange, 2009).

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In conclusion, as a result of globalization, the spread of infectious diseases has become rampant. Diseases that were thought to be under control are emerging and presenting challenges to health officials. The recent outbreak of TB in a high school in Kansas is an indication that a lot still needs to be done to contain communicable diseases. The fact that TB is spread through the air makes it a contagious disease with the capability of causing panic in schools, businesses, and community in general. Although anyone can contract TB, various risk factors enhance one’s vulnerability to the disease. Effective reporting about the outbreak can be the first step to restrain the disease. However, patients and community educational strategies will always form the basis for promoting a TB-free community.