Are You Battling Consumption?

It’s an archaic health term with a new meaning.

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH The word "consumption" is an expression first appearing in the 14th century. It described any potentially fatal, deteriorating disease that "consumed" the body. Later it more specifically referred to tuberculosis, identified in the late 19th century by German Dr. Robert Koch. It is often marked by a chronic cough that brings up blood-tinged sputum fever, chills, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The effect of advanced TB is destructive. This graphic image of an autopsied alpaca lung has an estimated 20% function remaining.

Spread through the air or via person-to-person contact, latent mycobacterium tuberculosis can go undetected for decades. Antibiotic treatments for TB that became available in the 1940s brought a rapid decline to consumption. Antibiotic-resistant TB strains have emerged. Though the number of cases are decreasing, it continues to claim lives, primarily in developing countries, where an estimated 8.8 million new cases occurred in 2010. To minimize the global spread, the CDC established a Do Not Board (DNB) list with names of people with known communicable diseases. In May 2008 that DNB list included 33 persons with TB.

TB is Deadly Though Not Dead

You may notice many people wearing face masks in Asia. It's not ancient paranoia. In sharp contrast to only 5–10 percent in the United States, about 80 percent of the population in Asian and African countries test positive for tuberculosis. New infections occur in about 1 percent of the global population each year.

Tuberculosis is principally a disease of poverty. It is closely linked to both overcrowding (like China) and malnutrition. Those at high risk include: people using inject illicit drugs, inhabitants and employees of locales where vulnerable people gather (e.g. prisons and homeless shelters), medically underprivileged and resource-poor communities, high-risk ethnic minorities, children in close contact with high-risk category patients, and health care providers serving these patients. Those with HIV or COPD are vulnerable to TB. Smokers are twice a likely to develop TB than nonsmokers. In summary, the word "consumption" has fallen in to disuse in reference to TB but the disease remains a threat in many parts of the world.

Modern Consumption

Since the term "consumption" has become an archaic description of tuberculosis, people have been repurposing the word in different contexts. For example, we have been called a consumptive society, referring to the consumption of mass-produced commodities — food or technology gadgets. Morbidly obese consume too much food. The designation of consumers has gradually been adopted into the vernacular — referencing customers who consume inventory. It appears everyone has been overtaken by consumption in one way or another.

Social media networking is said to involve three C's: consumption, curation, creation. And in a very literal way, all the digital devices and social media platforms can consume time that could be better spent elsewhere. So if we feel stressed, distressed, and unblessed, it could be that we need to treat our consumption with a little R&R — recuperation and rest.

Tags: inundated, overwhelmed, time management

  1. What's “Consumption,” and Why Did It Kill Nicole Kidman?
  2. Tuberculosis.
  3. One Secret To How TB Sticks With You.
  4. Is a Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Becoming a Global Concern?.
  5. COPD and the Risk of Tuberculosis.
  6. The Three C’s of Social Networking: Consumption, Curation, Creation.
  7. Photo: Associated Press.