Tuberculosis (TB) Fact


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What is tuberculosis (TB)?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial disease called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that usually affects the lungs. TB is spread through the air from one person to another when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes. TB can also affect the kidney, spine, and brain. TB can cause death when not treated correctly.

Who gets TB? 

Anyone can get TB. However, those at high risk include: 
  • People who share breathing space with an Active TB-infected person
  • People who are poor or homeless
  • Refugees from countries where TB is very prevalent
  • Residents of nursing homes
  • Prisoners
  • Users of alcohol and intravenous drugs
  • Persons who are diabetic, cancer-diagnosed, or underweight
  • Persons infected with HIV

 How is TB spread? 

Tuberculosis (TB) is spread through the air from one person to another. When a person with active TB disease coughs or sneezes, people nearby may breathe the air and become infected.
When a person breathes in TB bacteria, the bacteria may settle in the lungs and begin growing. From there, the bacteria can move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine, and brain.
TB in the lungs or throat can be infectious and spread to other people. TB in the kidney or spine typically is not infectious.

What are the symptoms of TB?

Symptoms include:
  • A cough that lasts for 3 weeks or more
  • Fever or chills
  • Night Sweats
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Constant tiredness
  • Coughing up blood (occassionally)
People who develop the above symptoms should be evaluated by a health care provider. Your provider may administer a TB skin test.
If diagnosed with TB, health care providers will recommend that close contacts (household members, friends, classmates, etc.) be tested for TB.

What is the treatment for TB? 

It is important to see a doctor right away for prompt diagnosis and treatment. TB is treatable using antibiotics for 6 to 12 months. This will successfully treat an infected person preventing spreading of the disease. It is very important that those with TB complete the medication and take exactly as prescribed. If medication is discontinued too soon, TB patients can become sick again.

Are there complications from TB? 

In most people who breathe in TB bacteria, the body is able to fight the bacteria and stop bacteria from growing. The bacteria become inactive, but may remain alive in the body and may become active later. Many people who have latent TB infection never develop active TB disease, but can have evidence of prior infection when a TB skin test is positive. Those who are latently infected are at risk for developing acute infection later.
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