Remember World TB Day Is Recognized March 24

By at March 16, 2012 | 8:45 am | Print

The CT Department of Health and public health officials across the nation recognize March 24th as World TB Day. Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),one third of the world’s population is infected with TB. Each year, over 9 million people throughout the world become sick with TB.2 million people worldwide die each year. TB disease can be fatal if not treated properly. Connecticut had 1028 cases of active TB since 2000 per the CT Department of Public Health. New Britain is not immune as 35 cases have been reported to the Health Dept within the last 9 years.

So, what exactly is tuberculosis? TB disease is caused by the bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium usually attacks the lungs, but it is not uncommon for it to infect the spine, kidney, lymph nodes and brain. It is spread from one person to another, similar to the flu or a cold.

When a person with active TB coughs or sneezes, the TB bacteria is dispersed into the air and people nearby may breathe in these germs and become infected. TB is NOT spread by sharing food or drinks, kissing, shaking someone’s hand or sharing toothbrushes. Remember, this is an inhaled bacteria.

But, the good news is that not everyone exposed to the TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, there are two different categories of TB conditions: latent TB infection and active TB disease.

The TB bacteria can live in your body without making you sick. Most people who breathe in the germ show no signs of illness. Your body is able to keep the bacteria from growing and fights off infection. Essentially the TB bacteria remains dormant but factors such as stress, diabetes, cardiac conditions and weakened immune systems can “awaken” the germ. This is called latent TB infection or LTBI. The only sign of LTBI is a positive tuberculin skin test(more about that later)It is recommended that a nine month course of the medicine isoniazid (INH) be taken to prevent the TB bacteria from activating later in life. About 5-10% of people with LTBI will develop active TB later in life if not treated.People with LTBI are not sick and do not spread the germ.

The second,and more serious condition, is active tuberculosis. The TB bacteria become active and multiply. At this stage, the person infected is highly contagious and usually exhibits cough, fatigue, night sweats and weight loss. Although, some people exhibit no symptoms at all. The course of treatment involves 4 different medications and usually lasts for 6 months.

There are two types of tests used to detect TB, a skin test and a special TB blood test. The skin test is more commonly used and requires a small amount of tuberculin fluid to be placed under the skin of the forearm. It is then “read” within 48-72 hours. If you have NOT been exposed to TB, there will be no evidence of the test. If you have been exposed, the area will be a hard and red. But, this does not indicate that you have active disease. A chest film and a sample of sputum is required to determine whether the person has active disease.

Who gets tested? Persons should get tested for TB by their doctor or Health Dept. if they have spent time with a person with known or suspected active TB, have symptoms of TB, have a condition with a weakened immune system such as HIV, or come from a country where TB is very common.

According to the CDC, these countries include Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia.

 

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