Preventing Tuberculosis (TB) in children

As the popular saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’. In this write up, we will learn how to prevent tuberculosis in children. What is tuberculosis? Tuberculosis, popularly known as TB, is an infectious disease which primarily affects the lungs. The germ that causes it is a bacteria.
How is TB spread? TB is spread through the air. It is therefore very contagious because we cannot do without breathing. When someone with the disease coughs into the air, another person close to him can get it by breathing that air.

Is TB a common disease? TB is common in developing countries. Nigeria is one of the top ten countries of the world with the highest number of people with TB.
How does TB affect people? People that have TB cough alot and experience fever, in addition, they lose weight. When a child has it, he does not grow well and it can quickly spread to other parts of the body like the bones, the brain and its covering (meninges). When these things happen, the child may not be able to walk, suffer brain damage or even die. TB therefore has a more serious illness pattern in children.
How can TB be prevented in children? TB can be prevented in children by giving them the BCG vaccine.

BCG stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, A vaccine is a substance containing part of a germ or its products, which when ingested or injected into an individual, gives him immunity to the disease caused by that germ. Therefore, the person becomes able to fight that disease.
When is the BCG vaccine given? In Nigeria and many other countries where Tuberculosis is common, the BCG vaccine is offered to babies at birth or as soon as possible after birth.
How is the BCG vaccine given? It is an injection usually given in the left upper arm of the baby.
Where can a baby receive the BCG vaccine? A baby can receive the BCG vaccine, along with the other childhood vaccines, in most private or public hospitals, and primary health care centres.

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How much does the BCG vaccine cost? The BCG vaccine is given freely by the Nigerian government because of the commitment to reducing the impact of Tuberculosis in Nigeria. However, in order to get it, one may need to pay a token to cover for administrative costs, which is usually higher in private than in public hospitals.
How effective is the BCG vaccine? It is 70-80% effective. If someone who has received it gets TB, the illness remains in a mild form.
Should a baby born to Nigerian parents outside Nigeria get the vaccine? It depends on what is done in the country of his birth – The child takes the vaccines recommended there. If BCG is not offered in that country and the baby later goes to Nigeria, the child needs to be given the BCG vaccine.

Can a Nigerian born child take the BCG vaccine later on in life if not given at birth? Yes. But first a mantoux test needs to be done in a hospital to check the level of the child’s exposure to TB. Based on the test result, the child may or may not be offered the BCG vaccine.
In conclusion, now that we are better informed about tuberculosis and its prevention, let’s go ahead and protect our children against its harmful effects.

Article written by Dr. Eden Igbafe, Consultant Paediatrician, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria.
Edited by Dr. Ngozi Onuoha. Copyright 2016, Health4Naija LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This site serves to provide information for Education. You should seek the attention of your Medical provider for any health matters.

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