Worried about Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection that most commonly affects the lungs.  It is spread through air droplets released when a person with active tuberculosis coughs or sneezes, similar to how a cold or the flu is spread.  Different than the common cold or flu, the bacteria grows very slowly and is fairly difficult to catch, so you typically have to spend a lot of time around a person who has TB to catch it. People at most risk are very close contacts such as family members, co-workers, or very close friends.

Doctors make distinctions between two types of TB:  Latent and Active.

  • Latent TB is when the bacteria is present in the body in an inactive form.  The person will not have symptoms and will not be contagious.  About 10% of those with latent TB will go on to have an active TB infection.
  • Active TB is when the bacteria is active and an individual will have all or some of the following symptoms. Cough for 3 more more weeks with fevers, night-sweats, weight loss and blood-tinged sputum.

You should see your healthcare provider if you have any of the above symptoms or have known contact with someone who has tuberculosis.  TB is detected by a doctors evaluation followed by a skin test or a blood test and a chest xray.  Higher risk individuals will be tested with microscopic examination and cultures of their sputum.

While difficult to treat, TB can be treated with a long course of antibiotics, so while it is a serious infection, the vast majority of patients will be completely cured!