Jessica Schuman RN BSN AE-C

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterium that is spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air from coughs and sneezes.   In the United States, TB was considered to be decreasing in incidence over the past years due to strong control programs, but still remains a concern today.

Tuberculosis is categorized into two different groups; Latent and Active.

Latent TB is a condition where the bacterium remain in the body in an inactive state and with the help of the immune system, prevents you from becoming sick.  Even though people with latent TB have no symptoms and are not contagious, it can turn into active TB, so treatment for latent TB is very important to help control spread.

Active TB is the condition that makes you sick and can be spread to others.  It can occur anywhere from a few weeks to years after being infected by the bacterium.

Per the Center for Disease control (cdc), the signs and symptoms of active TB include:

  • Coughing that lasts three or more weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

It is important to see your doctor if you have a fever, unexplained weight loss, drenching night sweats and a persistent cough.

The treatment of TB consists of taking medications for several months.  It is very important to seek treatment for exposure to TB, to help prevent the spread. If you feel if you have been exposed, immediately contact your doctor or local health department.   It is also important to use the NCBI recommendations for proper respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette by covering the nose/mouth when coughing or sneezing; cough or sneeze into elbow rather than hand. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; use the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use, and perform hand hygiene with soap and warm water.