What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused 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 extremely dangerous, and even fatal.
How TB Spreads
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.
TB is NOT spread by
- shaking someone's hand
- sharing food or drink
- touching bed linens or toilet seats
- sharing toothbrushes
When a person breathes in TB bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there, they can move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine, and brain.
TB disease in the lungs or throat can be infectious. This means that the bacteria can be spread to other people. TB in other parts of the body, such as the kidney or spine, is usually not infectious.
People with TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with every day. This includes family members, friends, and coworkers or schoolmates.
Signs & Symptoms of TB
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)
- weakness or fatigue
- weight loss
- no appetite
- sweating at night
Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected. People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others.
TB Risk Factors
Generally, persons at high risk for developing TB disease fall into two categories:
- Persons who have been recently infected with TB bacteria
- Persons with medical conditions that weaken the immune system
Babies and young children often have weak immune systems. Other people can have weak immune systems, too, especially people with any of these conditions:
- HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS)
- Substance abuse
- Diabetes mellitus
- Severe kidney disease
- Low body weight
- Organ transplants
- Head and neck cancer
- Medical treatments such as corticosteroids or organ transplant
- Specialized treatment for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease
If TB is suspected
- Health Aides contact your Supervising Nurse. Nurses contact the parent/guardians, site administration and the Lead Nurse.
- The Lead Nurse will contact the OSDH to file a suspected report and contact the Health Services director.