TUBERCULOSIS

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air. This can happen when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs or sings. Although tuberculosis is contagious, it's not easy to catch. You're much more likely to get tuberculosis from someone you live with or work with than from a stranger.

Signs/symptoms: 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

Tuberculosis can also affect other parts of your body, including your kidneys, spine or brain. When TB occurs outside your lungs, signs and symptoms vary according to the organs involved. For example, tuberculosis of the spine may give you back pain, and tuberculosis in your kidneys might cause blood in your urine.

TREATMENT: Medications are the cornerstone of tuberculosis treatment. But treating TB takes much longer than treating other types of bacterial infections. With tuberculosis, you must take antibiotics for at least six to nine months. The exact drugs and length of treatment depend on your age, overall health, possible drug resistance, the form of TB (latent or active) and the infection's location in the body. Recent research suggests that a shorter term of treatment — four months instead of nine — with combined medication may be effective in keeping latent TB from becoming active TB. With the shorter course of treatment, people are more likely to take all their medication, and the risk of side effects is lessened. Studies are ongoing.

If you have latent tuberculosis, you may need to take just one type of TB drug. Isoniazid, Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), Ethambutol (Myambutol), Pyrazinamide

PREVENTION: If you have latent TB infection and you are in one of these high-risk groups, you should take medicine to keep from developing TB disease. There are several treatment options for latent TB infection. You and your health care provider must decide which treatment is best for you. If you take your medicine as instructed, it can keep you from developing TB disease. Because there are less bacteria, treatment for latent TB infection is much easier than treatment for TB disease. A person with TB disease has a large amount of TB bacteria in the body. Several drugs are needed to treat TB disease.

Traveling to different country with TB: Travelers who anticipate possible prolonged exposure to people with TB (for example, those who expect to come in contact routinely with clinic, hospital, prison, or homeless shelter populations) should have a TB skin test or a TB blood test before leaving the United States. If the test reaction is negative, they should have a repeat test 8 to 10 weeks after returning to the United States. Additionally, annual testing may be recommended for those who anticipate repeated or prolonged exposure or an extended stay over a period of years. Because people with HIV infection are more likely to have an impaired response to TB tests, travelers who are HIV positive should tell their physicians about their HIV infection status.

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