Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis being spread from one person to another through the air. It usually affects the lungs, but can also cause infection in other parts of the body. The bacteria enter into the air when a person with TB of the lung or throat coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings. If another person breathes in these bacteria, there is a chance they will become infected with tuberculosis. However, not everyone infected with the bacteria will develop TB disease because their body's natural defenses will protect them. Additional information on tuberculosis is available through the American Lung Association.
Who is at “high risk” for getting TB?
- Those living or interacting closely with someone known to have active TB disease
- Those with HIV, kidney disease, and other conditions that weaken the immune system
- Those who are underfed
- Those from or who have recently visited countries with high TB rates
- Alcoholics and intravenous drug users
- Nursing home residents, inmates, and others who live or interact with communities recognized as having high TB rates
- Those in contact with others who have recently been infected with TB bacteria
Latent TB Infection Vs. TB Disease
The term latent TB infection means that a person has the bacteria in their body, but the germs are being kept inactive by the body. They do not have symptoms of disease and cannot spread the bacteria to others. These people may develop active disease at a later time, if something happens which makes the body less able to protect itself. Medication is often prescribed for these people to prevent them from developing disease.
People with TB disease are sick with bacteria that are active in their body. Most people with active disease have 1 or more of the symptoms of TB. The symptoms could include feeling weak, weight loss, persistent cough, chest pain, loss of appetite, night sweats, and/or coughing up blood. Other symptoms can occur when the disease happens in a part of the body other than the lungs. Someone with TB disease can spread it to others. Medicines which can cure the disease are prescribed for these people.
TB Tests & Case Management
Learn more about getting tested for TB and what treatment options are available to those who test positive.