Communicable Diseases
Tuberculosis (TB)

​​​Summary:

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious bacterial disease; it is curable and preventable.
  • TB most often affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body, such as the kidneys and the brain.
  • TB is transmitted from person to person through the air. When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air and they can remain there for hours.
  • Continuous coughing for over two weeks is usually the first active symptom that appears on patients. 

Overview:
TB is a chronic infectious disease caused by bacteria (mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. 
There are two types of Tuberculosis. They are:
  • Latent TB: You have the germs in your body, but your immune system keeps them from spreading.  You don’t have any symptoms, and you’re not contagious, but the infection is still alive and can one day become active.  
  • Active TB: You show symptoms of infection and people who come in contact with you for long periods of time can also contract the disease.  Symptoms of active TB start appearing several weeks after the infection is contracted and in some cases, they may take months or even years to appear. 

Other names: 
Lung tubercles, tuberculosis (TB), phthisis, scrofula

Transmission:
TB is transmitted from person to person through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes and the other person inhales these germs. It can spread more easily in places that have been closed for long periods of time.

Cause:
Being infected with mycobacterium

Symptoms:
Latent TB usually doesn’t cause symptoms; however, the most common symptoms of active TB include:
  • A cough that lasts more than 2 weeks (usually the first symptom that appears), accompanied by coughing up blood;
  • Fever;
  • Night sweats;
  • Feeling tired all the time;
  • Weight loss;
  • Chest pain;
  • Poor appetite.

When to see a doctor?
When there is a fever, weight loss that happens for no apparent reason, night sweats, and continuous coughing. 
These are often signs of tuberculosis; but they can also be caused by other medical conditions.

Diagnosis:
  • Clinical examination
  • Laboratory tests
  • X-ray scans
  • Skin and sputum tests
  • Taking a tissue or fluid sample from the affected part when TB is suspected in that area (other than the lungs)

Risk factors:
  • Direct contact with TB patients without using personal protection (face masks)
  • Working in professions that expose you to infection
  • Chronic diseases, such as: Diabetes or liver diseases;
  • Drug addiction;
  • The elderly;
  • Malnutrition;
  • Infants and children;
  • Having HIV;
  • Taking immunosuppressants.

Complications:
  • Spinal pain;
  • Meningitis;
  • Liver and kidney problems;
  • Heart disorders.

Treatment:
Patients are treated with a standard 6-month course of antibiotics. They can be completely cured of TB if they adhere to doctor’s orders. The duration of the treatment varies based on the TB type and the infected part of the body.

Prevention:
  • Infants and children must take TB vaccine.
  • Avoid coming in contact with TB patients without personal protection.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Maintain balanced nutrition.
  • See a doctor once you feel sick.

Doctor’s guidelines for TB patients:
  • Stick to doctor’s prescriptions.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue on coughing, sneezing or laughing. Dispose of the tissue in a closed bag and throw it away. 
  • Wear face masks when around others. 
  • Carefully dispose of used personal tools in a plastic bag.
  • Open windows to ventilate the room and ensure fresh air gets in.
  • Avoid sleeping in shared bedrooms.
  • Avoid going to work or school until your doctor orders allows it. 

FAQs:
  • Is TB hereditary?
    • No, TB is not hereditary. It occurs as a result of transmitting the infection from one person to another or through drinking unpasteurized milk.
  • Can a person catch TB infection by being around a TB patient for one day?
    • Mixing with a TB patient can transmit the infection; however, catching the infection alone is not enough to cause active TB. It depends on the ability of the immune system to get rid of the microbe.

Myths & Truths 
  • Myth: TB leads to death.
    • Truth: If not properly treated, TB can lead to death.
  • Myth: You can only get TB once.
    • Truth: A person can get TB more than once by catching a new infection or having latent TB turn into active TB.
Clinical Education General Department
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Last Update : 16 July 2020 07:20 AM
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