Tuberculosis which is often referred to by its acronym TB is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs and is caused by a bacterium known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This disease is spread via the air and has been around for thousands of years. It is best known for the TB epidemic in Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
It wasn’t until the 1940s when the development of the antibiotic streptomycin was able to effectively cure TB, thus drastically reducing the number of infected.
How Is TB Spread?
As stated above, TB is spread through the air. It cannot survive on solid surfaces and is contracted directly from individuals who already have the bacterium via sneezing, coughing, and speaking.
What Are The Stages Of TB?
The first TB infection stage is when an individual first comes into contact with the bacteria and contracts it. Many individuals don’t immediately show symptoms, however, others may experience fever or even pulmonary symptoms. Most individuals with a healthy immune system are able to combat the infection, however, in others, the bacteria will remain dormant. During the dormant phase, TB can be diagnosed with appropriate testing however is not transferrable to others.
When TB becomes active, meaning the bacteria are actively multiplying, those infected will not only feel ill but be contagious as well. It is imperative that those infected receive treatment right away to avoid health complications and disease spread. Normally, a human body will be able to fend off TB with a strong immune system. Those who are immunosuppressant or have a compromised immune system will be at higher risk.
During active stages of TB, affected individuals may experience the following symptoms:
- A general sense of being unwell
- Coughing sometimes with blood or phlegm
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Weight loss with little to no appetite
- Night sweats
- Intermittent fever
- Generalized body aches
Is TB Common?
While we may not hear much news about TB, it is still present and has not been fully eradicated. Most cases of TB take place in Africa, Asia, and the Western Pacific regions. When looking at worldwide statistics, TB is one of the top 10 causes of mortality and is one of the leading causes of death for those with HIV.
Most common risk factors for TB include:
- HIV infection
- Being in jail or prison (where close contact can spread infection)
- Substance abuse
- Kidney disease and diabetes
- Organ transplants
- Working in healthcare
- Air pollution
- Smoking tobacco
Many of the above risk factors are revolved around individuals who have had their immune system compromised or weakened in some manner. As such, age is also a common risk factor for very young children and the elderly.
As stated above, TB only really affects those individuals who are immune compromised. Healthy adults don’t have anything to worry about, however, if you do find yourself experiencing these symptoms and have recently traveled outside of the country then contact your health care provider immediately.