Learn about TB on World Tuberculosis Day March 24, 2013 By admin Leave a Comment Key Takeaways: TB is a serious health concern in much of the world. TB can be latent or active. If you are traveling to a part of the world with high rates of TB infection, be sure to get a TB test both before and after your trip. Similarly, if you work with at risk populations, consider an annual TB test. Today, March 24th, is world Tuberculosis Day. Read on to raise awareness and learn more about this disease. Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that affects people all over the world. Yearly, approximately 9 million people are infected with the disease, and nearly 2 million people die from it. While industrialized countries tend to have a lower rate of occurrence of the infection, recent reports indicate that TB is still a public health issue among various segments of the population, even in the US, such as the homeless, the prison population, and those who are HIV positive. The Basic Facts About TB The bacterium that causes tuberculosis is called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis). It is spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs, emitting infectious droplets into the air that are inhaled by others. Although TB typically attacks the lungs, it can attack and spread to any part of the body, including the kidneys, brain, and other vital organs. There are two forms of TB. The first form is called latent tuberculosis. Many people who are infected with TB never exhibit symptoms of the infection. This form of tuberculosis is not infectious and will only become active when the immune system is no longer able to suppress the growth of TB cells. Once TB cells become active, the disease then becomes infectious and symptoms begin to appear. These symptoms often include the following: a persistent cough coughing up blood and/or sputum chest pain fever fatigue weight loss chills loss of appetite extreme sweating at night It’s very important that anyone exhibiting these symptoms see a physician for testing immediately. Testing for TB is done either via a skin test or a blood test. TB Treatment TB treatments are given in a series of doses. Treatments last anywhere from three months to nine months for latent TB. It’s vital that anyone beginning a TB treatment regimen take all recommended drugs to avoid worsening of the disease or spreading it to others. In some cases, those who fail to complete their TB treatment regimen will go on to develop an active, drug-resistant strain of TB. If this happens, treatment can become very expensive and the disease may be very hard to cure. The treatment for active tuberculosis includes a regimen of taking several antibiotic drugs for six to twelve months. TB Prevention and Information for Travelers Although not recommended for infants in the United States, in parts of the world where the disease is common, the World Health Organization recommends that infants receive a vaccine called BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin). BCG is fairly effective in protecting small children from severe TB complications; however, its efficacy in protecting adults is fairly limited. If you are traveling, heed the advice of the CDC. The organization recommends that “travelers should avoid close contact or prolonged time with known TB patients in crowded, enclosed environments.” If you are traveling to an area where infection is common, be sure to get a TB skin or blood test before your trip, and get a repeat test 8-10 weeks after your return. Those who work in health clinics or medical centers, prisons and homeless shelters also be tested regularly to make sure they haven’t contracted the disease.