A Vaccine Preventable Illness

Identification and Defintion

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by an attack from a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria generally targets the lungs, but the bacteria can also attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. However, not everyone infected with the TB bacteria becomes sick; thus, there are two TB-related conditions that exist: latent TB infection and TB disease.


History of Tuberculosis

On March 24, 1882, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB), Mycobaterium tuberculosis, was discovered. During this time period, one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe were killed by TB. Around the world, TB remains the second leading cause of death among infectious disease, with 1.5 million TB-related deaths in 2010. The vaccine for TB, bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), was first introduced in 1921.


Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis

The symptoms of tuberculosis generally include:

  • a bad cough that last three weeks or longer
  • pain in the chest
  • coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)

Other symptoms of TB disease may include:

  • weakness or fatigue
  • weight loss
  • no appetite
  • chills
  • fever
  • sweating at night


Transmission of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease, so it can be spread through the air from one person to another. It can be spread when a person with TB disease in the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. Anyone nearby may breathe in the airborne bacteria and become infected.


Complications of Tuberculosis

TB disease occurs when the immune system can't stop the TB bacteria from becoming active and multiplying in the body. If the person's immune system is weak, the risk of developing TB disease is much higher. People who have HIV infection, have been recently infected with TB bacteria, have other health problems (like diabetes) make it difficult for the body to fight the bacteria.

Complications can develop if you stop taking the drugs or take them not as described. If you do not take the drugs correctly, the bacteria that are still alive may become resistant and become harder to treat.


Recommended Control Measures for Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) transmission has been documented in the health care system, where people are at higher risk for infection. The TB infection control plan is designed to ensure:

  • prompt detection of infectious patients
  • airborne precautions
  • treatment of people who have suspected or confirmed TB disease

The TB infection control program should include a three-level hierarchy of control measures and include:

  1. Administrative measures
  2. Environmental controls
  3. Use of respiratory protective equipment