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UAE Tuberculosis: Information you need to breathe easy

There are many diseases that we know are serious, but we just don’t hear about much these days. Indeed, incidence of many infectious diseases has been relegated largely to the annals of history thanks to modern medicine. Formerly deadly epidemics like polio have all but gone the way of the dodo, and while we can revel in the knowledge that the black plague won’t be lurking around the corner, it’s important not to take for granted that these diseases once caused fear on a planetary scale. One such disease that is not making headlines these days, yet still must be respected as a serious, life threatening health hazard is tuberculosis (TB). Here, Pacific Prime discusses UAE tuberculosis, its prevalence and how you can make sure that you and your family are protected from it.

What is tuberculosis?

Stemming from airborne pathogens, tuberculosis is a disease that can get to anyone. All that one must do is to be near somebody else who is a carrier for the disease in order to contract it. This is because any cough, sneeze, or even laugh can send tiny droplets carrying the disease into the air. The disease came to prominence in the 1980s, but since the 90s efforts to control TB have been effective in reducing incidence of the disease around the world. Nevertheless, the disease remains a threat today, especially to those with weakened immune systems.

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Having said that, it often takes prolonged exposure to an infected individual to contract enough TB bacteria to develop the disease yourself. Thus, if we do contract TB, it likely came from somebody that we spend a significant amount of time with, such as a family member, friend or co-worker. No need to worry about what you’ve touched when it comes to TB, though. The bacteria don’t do well on surfaces outside of the body, so it is very unlikely to be passed by sharing food and drink or shaking hands.

Once your body does become infected by tuberculosis, there are different things that might happen. Some people will develop what is called ‘latent TB’. This means that the infected individual is essentially just a carrier for the disease. They will not show any symptoms or signs that they are infected, but they will still be able to pass the TB bacteria to others.

However, once TB is present in your lungs, it can become active at virtually any moment and begin to multiply. You would then begin to develop symptoms of the disease. For those unfamiliar, these include:

  • A cough lasting more than three weeks
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Coughing up blood
  • Night sweats
  • A general feeling of being tired

Anybody In order to detect the presence of tuberculosis in an individual, a blood test can be given. Even more common in some places, though, is a skin test that pricks the skin with multiple small tines. If the skin bubbles up, tuberculosis is present.

Tuberculosis risks

Some people are more susceptible than others to tuberculosis. This is true of those with weaker immune systems, such as small children and the elderly, but also applies to people who are regularly in places where TB is known to occur, including people working in hospitals or nursing homes, or who live in places that are hotbeds for the disease, such as the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Russia.

Because TB hits those with immune system issues hardest, you should take extra precautions if you have are undergoing any of the following:

  • Treatment with drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or Crohn’s disease
  • Taking medications following an organ transplant
  • Low body weight as the result of malnutrition
  • Cancer treatment, such as radiology or chemotherapy
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • HIV/AIDS

Don’t join the resistance

A troubling trend that has been seen on a larger and larger scale as time progresses is that some strains of tuberculosis are becoming resistant to the medication that is used to treat it. There are varying degrees of resistance, though:

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) – When tuberculosis doesn’t respond to at least the two most power drugs used to treat it, those being rifampicin and isoniazid, it is known as multidrug-resistant. This type of resistance occurs when people do not take their medications properly, and the bacteria are able to come back stronger and knowing how to resist medication. Fortunately, there are still treatment avenues available to those with MDR TB, even though they are not guaranteed to be effective.

Extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) – Going beyond even MDR TB, XDR TB is even more resistant to treatment. This form of TB has been seen in over 115 countries worldwide at this point. In 2015 there were globally 580,000 cases of MDR TB, with nearly 10% of these seeing the presence of XDR TB.

UAE tuberculosis information

A good thing to mention right off the bat when it comes to UAE tuberculosis is a topic that will come up at the top of internet searches on the topic very quickly. There was a time where expats in the UAE that had visible evidence of a previous TB infection would be deported. Now, however, with proper sponsorship and medical tests, those who have previously suffered from the condition can now be issued a visa.

In the most recent figures available from 2015, the incidence of UAE tuberculosis remained at the all time low from 2014 of 1.6 people infected per 100,000 population. Indeed, since the year 2000 the country has made great strides in preventing rates of infection. In that year the incidence of TB infection was closer to 12 per 100,000 people. The difference is obvious.

While the deportation practices mentioned previously likely did have a major role in getting the infection rate down, the prevalence of the disease in the UAE is now at a level that prior policies have been able to be revised.

As for treatment, while Emiratis are able to be treated for TB free of charge at public hospitals in the country, expats will likely be relegated to pricier private hospitals for treatment, although their health insurance will likely cover at least a portion of the cost of treatment. If you are a resident of Abu Dhabi or Dubai, obtaining such private health insurance is mandatory.

Protecting yourself from UAE tuberculosis

There is a vaccine for tuberculosis on the market, so immunizing your children against the disease is a great first step to take towards protecting you and your family from the disease. Besides this, do your best to stay away from areas where those at risk for tuberculosis are known to congregate. If you do need to spend time around someone known to be infected with tuberculosis, take the proper precautions by wearing a face mask.

Of course, as not everyone carrying the disease is aware they have it, sometimes it is impossible to prevent yourself from contracting TB. With this in mind, it’s important to have a comprehensive health insurance plan in place to address the costs of treatment for TB, or any other disease. To find out more about how Pacific Prime Dubai can help, please contact us today! Our agents are standing by to answer all of your questions, and provide health insurance plan comparisons and a free quote.

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