What is Tuberculosis (TB)?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious disease 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 There are two phases: Latent TB infection and Active TB disease.
Latent TB Infection
TB bacteria can live in the body without making someone sick and this is called Latent TB infection. In most people who breath in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing. People with Latent TB infection do not feel sick and usually don't have any symptoms. People with Latent TB infection are not infectious and cannot spread TB bacteria to others. However, if TB bacteria become active in the body and multiply, the person will go from having Latent TB infection to being sick with Active TB disease.
Active TB Disease
TB bacteria become active if the immune system can't stop them from growing. When TB bacteria are active (multiplying in your body), this is called Active TB disease. People with Active TB disease are sick with the following signs and symptoms:
Many people who have latent TB infection never develop TB disease. Some people develop TB disease soon after becoming infected (within weeks) before their immune system can fight the TB bacteria. Other people may get sick years later when their immune system becomes weak for another reason.
TB is transmitted through the air; extended close contact with someone with infectious Active TB disease is typically required for TB to spread. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. TB is NOT spread by shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, or kissing.
To refer patients with suspected active TB, or treatment of LTBI, contact Kathy Bloedel, PHN at 507-377-5100.