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What Is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is a bacterial infection caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air.  It is most often found in the lungs. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine. The general symptoms of TB includes feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. The symptoms of TB disease of the lungs also include couching, chest pain, and the coughing up of blood. Most people who are exposed to TB never develop symptoms because the bacteria can live in an inactive form in the body. But if the immune system weakens, such as in people with HIV or elderly adults, TB bacteria can become active. In their active state, TB bacteria cause death of tissue in the organs they infect. Active TB disease can be fatal if left untreated.

Because the bacteria that cause tuberculosis are transmitted through the air, the disease can be contagious. Infection is most likely to occur if you are exposed to someone with TB on a day-to-day basis, such as by living or working in close quarters with someone who has the active disease. Even then, because the bacteria generally stay latent (inactive) after they invade the body, only a small number of people infected with TB will ever have the active disease. The remaining will have what's called latent TB infection -- they show no signs of infection and won't be able to spread the disease to others, unless their disease becomes active. Because these latent infections can eventually become active, even people without symptoms should receive medical treatment as soon as possible. Invest in your health and get tested today.

 

There are two tests that can be used to help detect TB infection: 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.