Tuberculosis and Women


This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

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.

And, in some cultures, women who get TB face additional problems. They may not be able to leave their families or their jobs to go to a health center that is far away. They may be required to have their husband, father or brother take them for care. They may also have to depend on men to get them medicine.

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.

Some women worry about rejection by family members and employers if they have TB. The World Health Organization leads the StopTB campaign. Campaign officials say there is no reason to reject someone who has TB. 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. And the women should get their treatment from a trained doctor or health care worker. That way they know they are taking the right medicine.

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.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Karen Leggett.