Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis Control


QUICK FACTS: TUBERCULOSIS

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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. 

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 (LTBI)

In most people who become infected with TB, the body can fight the bacteria and keep it from growing. The bacteria become dormant but can become active later. This is called Latent TB Infection (LTBI). The CDC estimates that up to 13 million people in the United States live with LTBI. Treatment for Latent TB can be treated to prevent active TB disease from developing. Those with Latent TB:

  • Have no symptoms
  • Don’t feel sick
  • Cannot spread the TB bacteria to others
  • May develop TB disease if they do not receive treatment

 

TB disease (Active TB)

This occurs if the body’s immune system can’t stop the bacteria from growing. Some people develop TB disease, also called Active TB, 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.

Who Should Be Tested for Tuberculosis? 

  • People who were born in, traveled to, or resided in a country with high rates of TB for at least 1 month. Includes anywhere other than the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and western or northern Europe.
  • Groups with high rates of TB transmission, such as homeless persons, injection drug users, and persons with HIV infection.
  • People who take medications that weaken the immune system and/or with medical conditions that weaken the immune system, such as diabetes, Crohn's disease, cancer, and kidney disease. 
  • Close contacts of a person with infectious TB disease.
  • People who work or reside in facilities or institutions with people who are at high risk for TB, such as hospitals, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and residential homes for those with HIV.
  • Children with frequent exposure to adults at high risk of TB infection.

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:

  • Surveillance
  • Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) 
  • Nursing Case Management
  • Contact Investigations
  • TB Targeted Testing 
  • Community education 
  • TB Management Consultation 
     

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

 

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