You might think Tuberculosis is some kind of antiquated disease which was long ago relegated to the past. In fact, it’s a contagious airborne infection which still attacks millions every year, and the recurrence of this scourge – and antibiotic-resistant variants of the disease – serve as a firm reminder that TB is far from gone.
TB is a contagious infection which attacks the lungs and it can attack the brain and even the spine. It’s caused by a nasty little bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, and during the early 20th century, it was a leading cause of death in the United States. While most cases can be cured with a course of antibiotic treatment, some variants are much tougher to deal with and even standard treatment can require 6 to 9 months to be effective.
For more than 100 years, the American Lung Association has pursued its vision of a world without TB, and within the first 50 years of their efforts, TB in the United States was no longer a widespread disease. Today, TB infection rates in the U.S. are the lowest recorded since national reporting began in 1953, but the decline has slowed in recent years.
How Is Tuberculosis Spread?
It moves along just like a cold or the flu, and when someone stuck by the bacterium coughs, sneezes, snorts, guffaws or even sings, tiny droplets that contain the germs are released. All it takes is for you to inhale these nasty little droplets, and you’re infected. TB is contagious, and while not easy to catch – in general it’s necessary to spend a lot of time around a person who has it – it’s often spread among co-workers, friends and family members.
Tuberculosis germs don’t thrive on surfaces. You can’t get the disease from shaking hands with someone who has it, or by sharing their food or drink.
In March o f 1882, Dr. Robert Koch published his research which identified Mycobacterium tuberculosis as the root cause of tuberculosis. This discovery proved to be the watershed moment in the fight against the deadly disease, and now World TB Day is observed on March 24th as a result to raise awareness about TB-related problems and solutions.
Each year, TB is responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths globally and it primarily occurs in developing countries. The symptoms vary from weight loss to coughing and the infection is characterized by a long latency period between infection and clinical illness. The organism invades the lung and multiplies there, but it often causes few immediate symptoms. One organism can multiply into a million organisms in 3 weeks, which then spread by the blood stream to all parts of the body.
TB prefers a high oxygen environment and grows best in areas with a good blood supply like the top of the lung, the outer kidney, the spine and the ends of the long bones. When the primary lung lesion heals, the chest x-ray may be normal or show focal calcification. Most patients have complete healing of the primary infection after 6 to 9 months of treatment using multiple drugs. In addition, TB cultures should be negative at the termination of treatment.
Underwriting concerns are as follows:
· Date of diagnosis and relapse if any
· TB site such as lung, bone etc.
· Hospitalizations or surgeries for the condition
· Evidence of recurrence
· Cigarette smoking
· Pulmonary function tests
· Other health problems and concerns
As it applies to underwriting concerns, TB falls into two categories: Pulmonary and Extrapulmonary.
Pulmonary is the most common of the cases, affecting only the lungs. In a best-case scenario, it’s classified under a standard rate class presuming treatment has been completed for at least a year afterward. If there’s evidence of significant lung impairment, it’s treated like COPD.
Extrapulmonary is a less common active case where it spreads outside the lungs, causing other kinds of TB. In this case, it is likely going to create high premiums or a possible decline as well as Tuberculosis caused by a drug-resistant strain.