Juliette Courtine

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacteria that someone breathes in, creating an infectious disease in the lungs.

What body systems are affected?

The primary system that Tuberculosis affects is the respiratory system. This is where the bacteria proliferates, but if left untreated the bacteria can spread almost anywhere. The systems that doctors tend to find have also become infected are the skeletal, cortex and urinary system.

What happens to the body systems?

  • The respiratory system becomes infected in the lungs. The person who is infected will experience pain in their chest and will start coughing up blood and a yellow-green sputum (which is a secretion produced by infected lungs).

  • The skeletal system mostly becomes affected in children. The vertebrae in the spinal cord, which holds the body's structure, begin to collapse and this results in paralysis in one or both legs.

  • The part of the urinary system that becomes infected are the kidneys. These organs help filter blood, but now they are painful and may cause the person to urinate frequently and have high fevers.

  • When the cortex is infected it results in a psychotic reaction. This includes hallucinations, slurred speech and interrupted thought process.
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How does Tuberculosis arise?

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease. It starts in stagnant air where it floats until it is breathed in by someone else. Since Tuberculosis is also infectious, this means it can spread if the person with TB sneezes, coughs or even exhales near an unaffected person. An interesting characteristic about TB bacteria is that in can float in the air intact for an extended amount of time. This means that someone can get TB from a particle that has been in the air long after the actual TB patient was there. That's part of the reason why Africa has more cases of the disease; whole families crammed into small huts is the perfect environment for this bacteria to proliferate. This factor also makes miners more prone to have Tuberculosis since they tend to be working in small areas with still air.

Who is the target population?

Minorities tend to be the ones affected by Tuberculosis. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and in the United States people born outside the country have been more prone to the disease. People who have HIV, scoliosis, or are above the age of 65 are also more likely to have TB because their immune systems are already weaker due to their illnesses or age. Though these people do have a higher chance of being infected, it is still possible for anyone to get Tuberculosis.
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Signs and Symptoms

Sometimes the earliest stages of this disease produce no symptoms, but the signs and symptoms of someone with active Tuberculosis include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up sputum (yellow-green fluid your lungs secrete when they're infected)
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in food (which can lead to extreme weight loss)
  • Night sweats
  • Skin infections

How is Tuberculosis diagnosed?

Tuberculosis is almost always diagnosed in two ways; through the sputum and a skin test. When the doctor takes a sample of the person's sputum, the sputum can be cultured (grown and studied) to look for the TB bacteria. This can also be done with other fluids like urine to see if the Kidneys are infected. The other option is a skin test; this is the traditional way to figure out if a person has Tuberculosis. The doctor will inject antigens beneath the skin, and if the TB bacteria is present, the area of the injection becomes hard, red and swollen within one to three days. Another popular way to diagnose Tuberculosis is a chest X-ray which will reveal any abnormalities in the lungs.

What is the treatment?

Tuberculosis comes in different forms; one of these forms is drug-resistant TB which can be fatal, but Tuberculosis does have a treatment plan. The treatment for drug-resistant TB can take more than 2 years and is taxing on the patient, causing many of them to drop out of or die during it. Any patient with TB will have to get injections and take oral medications for months. If the patient is released from the hospital for their treatment, they will have to be isolated seeing as TB is an infectious disease. Now a social worker is assigned to the patient; the worker comes to the house to administer injections and provide medication until the patient is considered cured.

What is the prognosis for someone with Tuberculosis?

The prognosis for someone with Tuberculosis is usually bright if the disease is caught early. For someone with drug-resistant TB though, most doctors have to give the patients a dull truth: The treatment might not work and could make them go deaf, but otherwise they're certain to die of TB. Also since the treatment involves being isolated, many people have to drop out of school or quit their job, and many families abandon the patient once they've been diagnosed with the disease. If the disease is caught early and the patient sticks to the treatment though, the prognosis is generally good for the patient and they continue living normally afterwards.
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My Connection to Tuberculosis

My connection to Tuberculosis is my mother. She is an infectious disease doctor who works for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). She specializes in tropical medicine and Tuberculosis, which led to my interest in the disease.

Work Cited

"TB & Cultural Competency." Products:. Web. 06 Jan. 2016.

CLAVARINO, TOMASO. "The World’S Most Underestimated Disease." Newsweek Global 165.22 (2015): 52. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.

FOSTER, DOUGLAS. "The Global Toll Of Drugresistant Tuberculosis." Nation 301.16 (2015): 22. MAS Ultra - School Edition. Web. 11 Jan. 2016

Newton, David E. Sick: Diseases and Disorders, Injuries and Infections. Detroit, MI.: U.X.L, 2000. Print.

"Tuberculosis." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (2015): 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.