The Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium is to blame for tuberculosis. While TB is highly infectious, it is not very outside of developing countries.
Tuberculosis Infection Information
Only 10 percent of people who are infected with tuberculosis develop active TB -- the severe, contagious form of infection that causes symptoms. The other 90 percent who have a TB infection have no symptoms and are not contagious because the body's immune system holds the bacteria in check. In active TB cases, bacteria most often attack the lungs, but can also invade the kidney, brain, spine, or any other organ.
The infection spreads when a healthy person inhales expelled TB bacteria from airborne droplets released by a person with active TB. Symptoms of active TB usually don't begin for two or three months after exposure, if at all, and include a long-lasting (sometimes bloody) cough, chest pain, fatigue, fever, weight loss, and drenching night sweats. Active TB requires taking antibiotics for six to 12 months to completely kill the bacteria.
Who's at Risk for Tuberculosis
Anyone who is in close contact with people who have active TB disease is especially at risk. In addition, people with impaired immune systems (especially those who are HIV-positive); alcoholics and intravenous drug users; health-care workers; those who work in nursing homes, residential care facilities, and prisons; and those who travel internationally are more likely to either develop active TB or to be exposed to it. Tuberculosis is more prevalent in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Defensive Measures Against Tuberculosis
If you have been in close contact with a person with active TB disease, get a TB skin test or chest X-ray to determine if you are infected. Even if you just have a positive skin test, you may be given preventative treatment to decrease the risk of TB activating later.
If you are around people who have a greater chance of being infected with TB, such as if you work in a health-care or correctional facility, consider wearing a filtration mask that will help prevent you from inhaling TB bacteria. Finally, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, and exercise so your immune system is in top shape.
When it comes to respiratory infections, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Follow these tips to stay healthy during flu season and year round.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers magazine and Southern Living magazine. Mann formerly was an assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine.
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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.