Tuberculosis (TB) is a worldwide health issue. The World Heath Organization estimated over 10 million new cases of TB in 2018 alone. While TB is treatable with antibiotics the associated mortality was still more than 1.5 million in 2018.
The prevalence of TB is much higher in developing counties. South East Asia and Sub Saharan Africa account for roughly two thirds of all cases. Tuberculosis, however, is not isolated to developing counties. There were approximately 9,000 new cases of TB in the United States in 2018.
Tuberculosis 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. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
Tuberculosis Testing and Treatments
Symptoms of TB disease depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. TB bacteria usually grow in the lungs (pulmonary TB). TB disease in the lungs may cause symptoms such as:
- a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
- pain in the chest
- coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
Other symptoms of TB disease are:
- weakness or fatigue
- weight loss
- no appetite
- sweating at night
How is Tuberculosis Contracted?
TB bacteria are spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
Testing for Tuberculosis
There are two kinds of tests that are used to detect TB bacteria in the body: the TB skin test (TST) and TB blood tests. A positive TB skin test or TB blood test only tells that a person has been infected with TB bacteria. It does not tell whether the person has latent TB infection (LTBI) or has progressed to TB disease. Other tests, such as a chest x-ray and a sample of sputum, are needed to see whether the person has TB disease.
Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and TB disease. Both latent TB infection and TB disease can be treated.
Without treatment latent TB infection can progress to TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
When TB bacteria become active (multiplying in the body) and the immune system can’t stop the bacteria from growing, this is called TB disease. TB disease will make a person sick. People with TB disease may spread the bacteria to people with whom they spend many hours.
It is very important that people who have TB disease are treated, finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick again; if they do not take the drugs correctly, the TB bacteria that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat.
TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 9 months. There are 10 drugs currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating TB. Of the approved drugs, the first-line anti-TB agents that form the core of treatment regimens are:
- isoniazid (INH)
- rifampin (RIF)
- ethambutol (EMB)
- pyrazinamide (PZA)
Urgent Care Omaha Walk-In Clinics and Bellevue, NE | Tuberculosis Testing and Treatments
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