What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body like the kidneys, spine, lymph nodes, and brain. If it is not treated properly, TB can be fatal.
TB was once the leading cause of death in the United States. The bacteria that causes TB were discovered by Robert Koch in 1882. The first of several antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis was discovered in 1946. The first United States public health campaign was implemented to fight tuberculosis.
How does TB spread?
TB is spread through the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. People in close contact such as household members of someone with TB are most at risk of infection.
Latent TB infection
In most people who become infected with TB, the body can fight the bacteria and keep it from growing. The bacteria become inactive but can become active later This is called latent TB. Treatment for latent TB can be treated to prevent active TB disease from developing. Those with latent TB (LTBI):
Have no symptoms
Don’t feel sick
Cannot spread the TB bacteria to others
May develop TB disease if they do not receive treatment
This occurs if the body’s immune system can’t stop the bacteria from growing. Some people develop TB disease soon after becoming infected (within weeks) and others may get sick later when their immune system becomes weak for other reasons.
What Are the Symptoms of TB?
The general symptoms of TB disease include feelings of weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. The symptoms of TB disease of the lungs also include coughing, chest pain, and the coughing up of blood. Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.
How Do You Get Tested for TB?
There are two tests that can be used to help detect TB infection: a skin test or TB blood test. The tuberculin skin test (TST) is performed by injecting a small amount of protein into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person given a TST must return within 48 to 72 hours to have a trained health care worker look for a reaction on the arm. The TB blood tests measure how the patient’s immune system reacts to the germs that cause TB. People should consult with their health care professional to discuss which TB test is best for them.
How is TB Disease Treated?
TB disease can be treated by taking a combination of antibiotics for several months. It is very important that people who have TB disease complete the treatment and take the medication exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick again; if they do not take the drugs correctly, the germs that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. This can result in a more expensive and prolonged treatment plan.
The Bureau of Tuberculosis Control (BTBC) is dedicated to stopping the spread of Tuberculosis in Nassau County. This is accomplished through:
Directly Observed Therapy (DOT)
Nursing Case Management
TB Targeted Testing
TB Management Consultation
Surveillance is the collection of information which leads to controlling and or preventing TB. This is done electronically from laboratories and/or from health care providers. The CDC also reports certain immigrants for TB evaluation. Any person suspected of having tuberculosis must be reported to the BTBC by a health care provider.
DIRECTLY OBSERVED THERAPY (DOT)
DOT is the program whereby an outreach health care professional watches patients take their TB medication for 5 days a week. This helps the patient stay on track with medications and allows the patient to have access to a health care professional to assist with health care needs. This method decreases the risk of developing complications of TB. In some circumstances Skype Observed Therapy (SOT) can be offered to patients. This is when the patient is observed taking medication remotely via SKYPE. This use of technology is more cost and time efficient.
NURSE CASE MANAGEMENT
An individual being treated for active TB is assigned to a public health nurse to act as case manager. The case manager is responsible for overseeing the tuberculosis treatment of the patient. The case manager is responsible for ensuring completion of appropriate therapy for all active TB cases in Nassau County.
TB contact investigations are a necessary part of TB control and are conducted by the BTBC. Individuals at risk of exposure to an active TB case of the lungs or throat are identified and screened for TB infection and offered treatment for either LTBI or active TB disease if necessary. In addition, if a child under age 5 is diagnosed with latent TB infection, TB control will interview the parents or guardians in order to determine, if possible, the source of the infection.
BTBC will test high risk individuals in the community to identify TB infection.
BTBC participates in community education programs to improve TB education and awareness.
TB MANAGEMENT CONSULTATION
Health care professionals tasked with treating any active TB case in Nassau County are encouraged to contact the BTBC to discuss any challenging management issues.
The Nassau County Dept of Health does not offer TB testing for school or employment purposes. Please contact you physician or contact any of the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Centers in Nassau County for TB testing at (516) 296-3742