Tuberculosis and Women by Karen Leggett

Adapted from the VOA Special English Health Report, Broadcast: June 23, 2004

Tuberculosis kills about two million people a year. The international campaign called Stop TB says this lung disease kills more men than women in most of the world. Yet it says tuberculosis kills more women than all pregnancy related disorders combined.

Women often get TB during their most productive years. They are having babies, caring for their families and often working in paid jobs. Most women who die of tuberculosis are between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Often they die for lack of treatment or because of poor treatment.

Tuberculosis is especially easy to catch in places where people live close together. Most people who get infected with TB never get sick. But mothers who do, and are not treated, can easily spread the disease to their children. The germs are spread through the air when a person with TB coughs or sneezes. People with active cases of tuberculosis have a bad cough. Other signs include pain in the chest and coughing up blood. Tuberculosis also produces weakness, increased body temperature and weight loss.

The World Health Organization leads the StopTB campaign. They say it is important to know that tuberculosis can be cured. People must take medicine for several months. But doctors say a person taking the medicine stops infecting others in about two weeks. Women may be concerned about taking tuberculosis drugs if they are pregnant. But experts at the American Centers for Disease Control advise them to continue treatment. The C.D.C also says women who take TB drugs can continue to breastfeed their babies. This is important for the development of natural defenses in babies.

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