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What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that can infect the lungs, bones, and other organs. The TB bacteria are spread through respiratory droplets when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. There are two types of TB, latent and active.

Latent TB
TB bacteria can live in the body without making you sick. This is called latent TB infection. In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing. People with latent TB do not have any symptoms and cannot spread TB. Many who have latent TB never develop the disease, unless they develop a weakened immune system later in life.

Active TB
Active TB disease means the TB bacteria are actively multiplying within your body, causing symptoms. TB can occur anywhere in the body, but for most people, it will infect the lungs. People with active TB disease in the lungs can spread the infection to others.

What are the Symptoms of tuberculosis?

People with active TB disease in the lungs may have:

  • A bad cough lasting 3 weeks or longer
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood or sputum
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever/Chills
  • Sweating at night

Risk of Developing Tuberculosis

Those at risk for developing TB disease include:

  • People with HIV infection
  • People who became infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years
  • Babies and young children
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • People who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system
  • Elderly people
  • People who were not treated correctly for TB in the past

Diagnosis of Tuberculosis

A positive TB skin test or TB blood test only tells that a person has been infected with TB bacteria. It does not tell whether the person has latent or active TB. Other tests, such as a chest X-ray and a sputum sample, are needed to determine if a person has active TB

Treatment of Tuberculosis

TB disease is curable. It is treated with multiple antibiotics over a 6-month period under the supervision and management of a medical provider.

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