Tuberculosis General Information Fact Sheet
What is TB?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, the pleura, the abdomen, the spine, and virtually all organs of the human body. A person with TB can die if he or she does not get treatment.
What are the Symptoms of TB?
The general symptoms of TB disease include:
X-rays, CT scans or MRIs may be necessary to detect TB in organs other than the lungs.
According to the World Health Organization"s most recent TB report, extrapulmonary TB accounted for 14% of TB cases recorded globally in 2017. Unlike pulmonary TB, which is spread through the air from person to person – extrapulmonary TB is not infectious. A key risk factor for developing extrapulmonary TB is a compromised immune system which is why it is more common in patients infected with HIV. It can also occur in people with diabetes, cancer, low body weight and chronic kidney disease. Smoking and the use of drugs that can suppress the immune system also increase the risk of extrapulmonary TB. If defense mechanism fails, the bacteria multiply and cause disease in that specific organ system.
How is TB Spread?
TB germs are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. These germs can stay in the air for several hours, depending on the environment. Persons who breathe in the air containing these TB germs can become infected. This first stage is called latent TB infection.
What is the Difference Between Latent TB Infection and TB Disease?
People with latent TB infection have TB germs in their bodies, but they are not sick because the germs are not active. These people do not have symptoms of TB disease, and they cannot spread the germs to others. However, they may develop TB disease in the future. They are often prescribed a treatment to prevent active TB disease.
In people with active tuberculosis of the lungs, TB germs are active. They multiply in large numbers and destroy tissue in the patient"s body. Patients usually have symptoms of TB disease. People with TB disease of the lungs or throat can spread germs to others. Tuberculosis patients are treated with antibiotics.
What Should I Do If I Have Spent Time with Someone with Latent TB Infection?
A person with latent TB infection cannot spread germs to other people. You do not need to be tested if you have spent time with someone with latent TB infection. However, if you have spent time with someone with active TB of the lungs and if you are coughing by yourself for more than two weeks you should be tested.
What Should I Do if I Have Been Exposed to Someone with TB Disease?
People with TB disease are most likely to spread the germs to people they spend time with every day, such as family members or coworkers. If you have been around someone who has TB disease and have cough by yourself, you should go to your doctor or your local health department for tests.
How Do You Get Tested for TB?
If you have cough for more than two weeks, you must go for a sputum-examination. In any Government health facility, you can do this test free of charge. You will be asked to cough up some sputum and it will be examined under the microscope.
There are two tests that can be used to help detect TB infection (not active tuberculosis disease): a skin test or TB blood test. The Mantoux tuberculin skin test is performed by injecting a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person given the tuberculin skin test must return within 48 to 72 hours to have a trained health care worker look for a reaction on the arm.
The TB blood tests measure how the patient"s immune system reacts to the germs that cause TB.
These are not tests for active tuberculosis. They can be done to find out whether you have the TB germ in your body, but that doesn"t inform whether you have active TB or just presence of TB germs (that are sleeping). In some situations, it is advisable to check for the mere presence of TB germs, but the above-mentioned tests are not suitable for testing a population.
What Does a Positive Test for TB Infection Mean?
A positive test for TB infection only informs that a person has been infected with TB germs. It does not tell whether the person has progressed to TB disease. Other tests, such as a chest x-ray and a sample of sputum, are needed to see whether the person has TB disease.
What is Bacille Calmette–Guèrin (BCG)?
BCG is a vaccine for TB disease. BCG is used in many countries, but it is not generally recommended in the United States. BCG vaccination has only a small protective effect for the recipient. BCG vaccination may also cause a false positive tuberculin skin test. However, persons who have been vaccinated with BCG can be given a tuberculin skin test or TB blood test.
Why is Latent TB Infection Treated?
If you have latent TB infection but not TB disease, your doctor may want you to take a drug to kill the TB germs and prevent you from developing TB disease. The decision about taking treatment for latent infection will be based on your risk of developing TB disease. Some people are more likely than others to develop TB disease once they have TB infection. This includes people with HIV infection, people who were recently exposed to someone with TB disease, and people with certain medical conditions i.e. diabetes.
How is TB Disease Treated?
TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 18 months. It is very important that people who have TB disease take the drugs exactly as prescribed and complete their long treatment. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can fall sick with tuberculosis again; if they do not take the drugs correctly, the germs that are still alive may become resistant to the drugs used in this treatment. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat. During the course of the treatment, staff of the local health department meets regularly with patients who have TB to observe their treatment. This is called directly observed treatment (DOT). DOT helps the patient complete treatment in the least amount of time.
If you test positive for latent TB infection, you may need to take drugs to prevent active TB disease.
Preventing the spread of disease
If you have active TB disease of the lungs, you'll need to take steps to prevent other people from getting an infection. You will take drugs for six to eighteen months. Take all of the drugs as directed during the entire time.
If you have infectious tuberculosis of the lungs, you can pass TB bacteria to others. Protect others with these steps:
In countries where tuberculosis is common, infants often are vaccinated with the bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine. This protects infants and toddlers to some extent, who are more likely to have active TB disease of the brain and spinal cord.
Who is at risk for TB?
TB affects all ages, races, income levels, and genders. Those at higher risk include:
To eliminate TB let"s us work together and join in this movement.
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