Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a curable disease that primarily effects the lungs. TB is caused by a bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis.
How is Tuberculosis Spread?Tuberculosis is spread by breathing in bacteria that becomes airborn when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The disease is more easily spread in closed spaces over a long period of time. There is very little risk of catching TB from a one-time casual contact with an infected person.
Latent TuberculosisMost people that are exposed to TB and become infected are able to fight the infection and leave the bacteria inactive. However, the bacteria are still alive and may become active again in the future. A person is said to have latent TB as long as the bacteria are inactive. People with latent TB do not suffer from symptoms of the disease and are not able to spread tuberculosis to other people.
Active TuberculosisIf the body's normal defense (the immune system) is not strong enough to fight the infection, the TB bacteria will grow and multiply and can even spread to other parts of the body. This condition is known as active TB. Active TB is contagious and can be deadly if not treated.
Tuberculosis TestingA TB skin test is typically what is used to find TB. A small amount of testing material is injected just underneath the skin and is monitored for a reaction a couple of days later. If there is a postive reaction to the skin test, then further testing such as chest x-rays and a sputum sample may be required.
Treatment For TuberculosisTuberculosis can be cured. It also can be deadly if not treated. TB is treated with medications that must be taken every day for a long period of time, normally 6 to 9 months. It is very important that medication be taken exactly as the doctor precribes and do not stop taking the medicine until the doctor tells you to. Many people begin to feel better after 2 or 3 weeks of treatment and are no longer able to spread TB to other people. However, the medications will still be needed for the rest of the 6 to 9 months.