What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is an ancient disease (evidence of it has been found in mummies more than 2,000 years old) that is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium usually attacks the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body. Once the leading cause of death in the United States, TB is now at an all-time low in this country. However, it is still a major public health concern throughout the world – Specifically in African and European regions with the emergence of drug resistant TB.
TB is spread through the air – When a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, sings or speaks people nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. Not everyone infected becomes sick with TB disease. People who are infected, but not sick, have what is called latent TB. People who have latent TB are not sick, do not have any symptoms and cannot pass the illness on to others.
Who is at Risk for TB?
Those individuals who have spent time with a person who has had, or if suspected of having, TB; individuals from countries where TB is common; people living or working in group settings (homeless shelters, prisons, nursing homes, migrant farm camps, etc.) and persons with HIV infections are high risk for contracting TB. If you, or someone you know, fit one of these descriptions it’s important to get tested for TB at the first sign of symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of TB?
Some of the more common symptoms of a TB infection include:
- A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- A feeling of fatigue or weakness
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- No appetite
- Sweating at night
The good news is that most people who get TB can be cured if they are properly treated and take the medicine exactly as prescribed. If you suspect that you, or someone you know, may be showing TB symptoms, contact a doctor immediately for testing and treatment.
Not sure what questions you should be asking your doctor? Give Breathe Pennsylvania a call at 1-800-220-1990 today.