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What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs, but can attack almost any part of the body. Tuberculosis is spread from person to person through the air.

Tuberculosis is also called TB.

How is Tuberculosis spread?

The germs that cause tuberculosis are spread through the air. Tuberculosis can be spread by an infected person to another person by coughing, laughing, sneezing, singing, and talking. Repeated contact is unusually required for infection.

Tuberculosis is usually spread between family members, close friends, and people who work or live together. Tuberculosis is spread most easily in closed spaces over a long period of time.

Infected with Tuberculosis and having the Tuberculosis Disease

It is very important to understand that there is a difference between being infected with tuberculosis and having tuberculosis disease. Most people who become infected do not develop tuberculosis disease because their body's defenses protect them.

Someone who is infected with tuberculosis has the tuberculosis germs, or bacteria, in their body. However, the body's defenses are protecting them from the germs and they are not sick.

Someone with tuberculosis disease is sick and can spread the disease to other people. A person with tuberculosis disease needs to see a doctor as soon as possible.

How Many people are infected with Tuberculosis?

Experts believe that about 10 million Americans are infected with tuberculosis germs. Only about 10 percent of these people will develop tuberculosis disease in their lifetime.

Who gets Tuberculosis?

Anyone can get tuberculosis.

What are the symptoms of Tuberculosis?

A person with tuberculosis infection will have no symptoms.

A person with tuberculosis disease may have some of the following symptoms:

  • A cough that will not go away
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Night sweats

How is Tuberculosis infection diagnosed?

The tuberculosis skin test is a way to find out if a person has tuberculosis infection.

What is the Treatment for Tuberculosis infection?

Treatment for tuberculosis depends on whether a person has tuberculosis disease or only tuberculosis infection.

If a person is infected with tuberculosis, but does not have tuberculosis disease, may be given preventive therapy. Preventive therapy aims to kill germs that are not doing any damage right now, but could break out later.

What is the treatment for Tuberculosis disease?

If you have tuberculosis disease, your doctor will prescribe medication for you. You may also have to stay in the hospital for a short period of time. It is important to continue taking the medication even if you begin to feel better. If you do not, the tuberculosis can become stronger and you might infect others.

Can a Tuberculosis patient infect others?

Yes, especially if they have tuberculosis disease and it is not being treated or if medication has been stopped prematurely.

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