Taking Tuberculosis for Granted

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The very first time we consulted our pediatrician, she told us to screen EVERYONE in the household–have them undergo chest X-ray to determine whether or not they have tuberculosis.

chest radiographs

Image by uafcde via Flickr

About a week after that came Raviv’s very first nanny whom we “imported” from Mindanao, recommended by the mother of my sister-in-law.  We had her X-rayed a few days after her arrival.  We did not think she has it, but just to follow the doctor’s recommendation, we had her X-rayed.  Her result came and it recommended further testing.  At that time, I almost never wanted to part with my baby, and she almost never touched my baby…which turned out to be a good thing because we discovered she had TB (Note: Prior to our discovering she had TB, she already left because she was pirated by the relative of her sister’s family friend residing in Quezon City…we were very angry and we had the “pirates” pay all the expenses: plane fare, X-rays, etc…but when we learned she had TB we were grateful to the “pirates”…at least we don’t have to spend for her plane fare in going home).  Learning a valuable lesson, we had all six of our staff X-rayed…good grief they were negative for TB.  Then, we had a new nanny whom we had screened immediately and was found negative.  This nanny was a gem–she surely loved my Raviv and was very diligent.  Unfortunately, we had to let her go after almost six months because no one could take care of her own baby in the province.  Then, we got two new helps, one being Raviv’s nanny.  We were about to have them X-rayed but they told us that they underwent chest X-ray recently.  About a month after hiring  them, we hired a new houseboy (as our two other boys went home).  This new houseboy does not look like a houseboy–he looks more like a call center agent.  Probably because of the fact that looks so clean and healthy (lean, not fat though), hubby and I never thought of having him undergo a chest X-ray.  Moreover, he is supposed to stay downstairs and has no business with our baby boy thus we found no urgency of having him X-rayed.  Later on, we discovered that our new nanny and the new houseboy are in a romantic relationship.  Thus, our new houseboy acts as a yayo when his girlfriend needs his help.

One of the helpers (the nanny’s companion from the agency) we got from the agency got pregnant, and so we searched for another helper.  We got two, and insisted that they be X-rayed.  I also insisted to have our boy X-rayed, and….SURPRISE SURPRISE!!!  Our houseboy, who has stayed with us and acted as part-time yayo four months has tuberculosis.  Everyone in our household had a chest X-ray again, and thank God none of us were positive (although my niece’s nanny has pneumonia).  We had Raviv skin-tested, and sadly, he has been infected.  Hubby and I were crestfallen upon hearing the sad news.  His pedia comforted us by saying that he has been infected but he might not have it—he may have the bacteria but the bacteria are dormant.  To find out, she recommended that Raviv get a chest X-ray as well.  She also gave Raviv medicine, which will be added by two more meds if X-ray shows he has TB/primary complex.  His X-ray results will come out tomorrow, Monday.  I’m praying he won’t have primary complex/TB, but if he does, we are just grateful we discovered it before any symptoms showed.

We brought our houseboy to a pulmonologist, who strongly recommended that we isolate him for a month.  It saddened us, because he is a goldmine:  he is very conscientious, kind, and he THINKS (he is not in my Helper Humor post because he thinks).  We gave him money to buy meds and fare in going back to Bicol and back here after a month when he’s no longer contagious.  We decided to take care of his treatment, because he is worth it.

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Our houseboy’s pulmonologist said that TB is highly contagious and just one TB bacterium is enough to infect a person, thus his strong recommendation to send our houseboy home.  As for my niece’s nanny, she will undergo a one-week treatment for her pneumonia and doesn’t need to go away.  For someone to be infected with pneumonia, about a million bacteria are needed…ang layo sa TB diba?

Now armed with the facts about TB, I just have to know:  Are chest X-rays compulsory upon enrollment at school?  I believe that they MUST BE COMPULSORY, especially that these days most school classrooms are air-conditioned!  We responsible parents are screening our house help, but these would be futile if our children’s classmates are infected!  Moreover, I believe that a compulsory chest X-ray would pave way for early diagnosis, which is actually good.  TB/primary complex is not to be feared because it is easily curable these days and upon medication (usually after a month), it ceases to become contagious.  I hope that a chest X-ray result along with birth certificate and baby book (that shows record of immunization shots) will be a requirement upon registration.  If ever the child has primary complex, proof that he/she is being treated must also be showed. 

ERRATUM/UPDATE November 15, 2011

We got Raviv’s X-ray results yesterday and had his pedia check it.  Unfortunately, he has primary complex.  He started the three meds this morning.

We asked whether his TB is contagious, and the doctor said it is not.  For kids, it is called primary complex, and primary complex is not contagious; the adult’s TB is what’s contagious.  However, if the primary complex gets even more complex (can’t help using a bad pun, 😉 teehee), it becomes contagious.  Thus, I still think that schools screen their future students to prevent a simple primary complex from getting worse.

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7 responses »

  1. Hi Dew. I remember my sister – a doctor by profession – telling us to be cautious of TB because, if I remember it right, she said that about 1 for every 3 Filipinos has it (arrg!). You never know the one next to you is infected pala. Yes, it’s really hard to determine whether a person has it or not. It’s a good thing you acted wisely and I’m glad that Raviv is fine. Though I’m not a mom yet, I often advise my friends to have their helpers tested. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I myself restrain from sharing utensils with others since it’s one of the common means to acquire TB. It’s good that you shared this information because I know a lot of people need to be informed. Aside from these practical measures, we are given the best tool to be protected and that is “prayer”. Let’s keep on praying for our family’s safety. 🙂

  2. Ooops, I’m mistaken. TB is air-borne nga pala so a person doesn’t get infected by sharing utensils. But still, not sharing utensils is one good practice ‘coz I’m sure it could be a channel for other sicknesses. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the comment Iris! I just really hope schools would screen their students…I don’t it’s going to be offensive since it seems to be a must for pediatricians. School workers esp teachers should be screened as well.

    • We got Raviv’s X-ray results yesterday and had his pedia check it. Unfortunately, he has primary complex. He started the three meds this morning.

      We asked whether his TB is contagious, and the doctor said it is not. For kids, it is called primary complex, and primary complex is not contagious; the adult’s TB is what’s contagious. However, if the primary complex gets even more complex (can’t help using a bad pun, teehee), it becomes contagious. Thus, I still think that schools screen their future students to prevent a simple primary complex from getting worse.

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