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Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne disease caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a germ that primarily effects the lungs but can also effect other organs. People who are infected with TB do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms and are not contagious unless and until their infection develops into active TB disease.
TB is spread through the air. Whenever someone with infectious TB sneezes, coughs, or talks, TB bacteria may be released into the air. Someone nearby may inhale the TB bacteria, at which point they may become infected with TB. Once inside the body, the TB bacteria can be made inactive, or it can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. The TB bacteria also can spread to other parts of the body such as the spine, brain and kidney.
A bad cough lasting longer than two weeks
Coughing up blood
Fatigue or weakness
Weight & appetite loss
Sweating at night
Approximately, 10 percent of people infected with the TB germ will develop active TB disease at some point in their lives. The risk is greatest during the first two years after being infected. The risk is also greatest for persons who are HIV-positive or who have other clinical conditions that effect the immune system. The remaining 90 percent of those who are infected have no symptoms, other than a positive reaction to the tuberculin skin test, and will not develop active disease. They have what is known as latent TB infection. They are not infectious and cannot transmit TB to anyone because their immune systems stop the infection.
If an infected person's body is not able to make the TB germ inactive, they are said to have "active TB" or "TB disease." Those with TB disease in their throat or lungs are infectious and can easily spread the TB bacteria. However, individuals who have TB disease anywhere else cannot spread the TB bacteria and are not infectious. If you have active uncomplicated TB disease, you must complete a 6-12 month period of 3-4 TB drugs, ordered by a doctor.
Who Is At High Risk of TB?