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Tuberculosis (TB) disease is caused by the bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria can attack any part of your body, but it usually affects the lungs.
How does someone get TB?
TB is spread from person to person through the air. The bacteria are passed into the air when a person with TB disease coughs or sneezes. People can breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
How do I know if I have it?
Symptoms of TB disease: cough, night sweats, and weight loss usually lasting longer than 2-3 weeks. Some individuals with active disease will have minimal or no symptoms.
Tuberculin skin testing or TST: a small amount of test solution is injected into the skin to determine exposure. This skin test site is checked between 48-72 hours later for a positive reaction known as "induration.” The induration is measured to determine if it is a positive or negative test.
Interferon Gamma Ray Assay or IGRA: a blood test that can be done to determine exposure. The test usually results in 3-4 days.
Chest X-ray: is used to check for active disease in the lungs.
Sputum collection: a sample of secretions produced by a cough can be sent to the laboratory for analysis.
They told me I was infected but I do not have the disease. What is the difference?
Latent TB Infection is when a person has been infected and has the potential to develop TB disease, but is not currently ill.
TB disease is when a person has been infected and damage is occurring as a result of TB infection that has overwhelmed the body's defenses which can make the individual ill.
Is there treatment for TB?
Both TB infection and TB disease are treated with specific medications.
Who is most at risk for TB?
- Persons with recent exposure to an active TB case
- Small children and the elderly
- Persons with HIV/AIDS
- Persons who take medications that effect their immune system, such as steroids or chemotherapy agents
- Persons with certain cancers
- Persons who have weak immune systems due to substance abuse