General Overview of Tuberculosis

The microorganism that causes T.B., Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, has been around for over 20,000 years. T.B has also had multiple names through out history. A few of those names are White Plague, Consumption, and Phthisis Pulmonaris. Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs of the patient but can also spread to other organs through the blood stream. The microorganism can be latent for years before striking the immune system. When it does strike is basically consumes the tissues of the infected organ. There are 2 types of T.B, Pulmonary and Extrapulmonary.

Pulmonary T.B infects the lungs while Extrapulmonary T.B affects not only the lungs but other organs and parts of the body. An example of Extrapulmonary T.B is called Military T.B. Military T.B spreads rapidly through the bloodstream and can be very fatal.

How Is Tuberculosis Transmitted?

Tuberculosis is transmitted through the air. The infected person may cough, sneeze, or talk and put the disease into the air. Those around the patient could possibly catch the disease. Tuberculosis is NOT spread by shaking someones hand or other types of physical contact. It is an airborne disease.

A person with other immue weaking illness have a higher risk of getting T.B than others do or if you were once infected before the age of 5 years old or within the last 2 years. If a person has HIV/AIDS their chance of catching T.B is slightly higher.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of T.B?

A person who is infected with Tuberculosis could have some or all of the following symptoms;

  • Persistent cough for 3 weeks or more
  • Constant fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Coughing up blood or sputum (mucus from deep inside the lungs)
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pains

Tuberculosis Statistics

More than 2 billion people have the microorganism that causes T.B in their bodies. Between 5-10% of that 2 billion will become infected with the actual disease. Tuberculosis does not affect only one age group; It affects all age groups. About 70% of Tuberculosis cases are found in people ages 15-54. T.B does not affect a certain ethnic group, but can affect all of them instead. Although a study was done that showed that African Americans had the highest percentage of ethnic groups with T.B. T.B is the leading killer of those with HIV. In 1990 T.B was the leading cause of death in the United States. The mortality rate of T.B has been dropping all across the world. In 2014, 9.6 million people became sick with T.B and 1.5 million people died from the disease that year.

Diagnosis and Who Should Get Tested?

There are two ways to diagnose if a person has been infect with the T.B Bacteria: the tuberculin skin test and TB blood tests.

A positive skin test only tells if one has the bacteria. It does not mean that you have one of the forms of Tuberculosis. Tests like chest x-rays and a sample of sputum are needed to determine if a person has T.B disease.

Those who should look into getting tested for T.B disease are the following;

  • Those who have spent time around a person with the disease
  • People infected with HIV or other diseases that weaken the immune system
  • People who have T.B symptoms
  • Lived or visited a place where T.B is very common
  • People who take/use illegal drugs

Is There a Way to Treat T.B?

There are treatments for Tuberculosis. It can be cured with appropriate antibiotic treatments.

  • Latent T.B- prescribed treatment to prevent the disease from developing
  • T.B Disease- Several medicines are prescribed for 6 to 9 months. It is very important that the infected person takes all of the medications because if they do no then they could become very sick again. If the person does not take the medications correctly then the bacteria could also possibly become immune to the medicines.

How to Prevent T.B?

T.B is a very contagious disease so it will more than likely never disappear, although there are steps that can be taken in order to reduce one's risks of getting the disease.

  • If you live with someone with T.B then wear face masks around them to prevent the intake of the airborne disease. Encourage them to get treatment.
  • Do not spend long periods of time in an enclosed room with someone with the diseases unless they have been treated for over 2 weeks with the correct medications.