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Tuberculosis Information

This information has been gathered from the Center for Disease Control Website www.cdc.gov

What is TB?
TB is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This disease primarily affects the lungs, but can attack any organ in the body. TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. However, not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and active TB disease. Both of these conditions are treatable and curable.

What is the difference between latent TB infection and active TB disease?
In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria and stop them from growing. The bacteria become inactive, but they remain alive in the body and can become active later. This is called latent TB infection. There are an estimated 10 to 15 million persons in the United States with latent TB infection. Many people who have latent TB infection never develop active TB disease. In these people, the TB bacteria remain inactive for a lifetime without causing disease. A person with latent TB infection does not feel sick and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. When a person with pulmonary or laryngeal TB coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, droplet nuclei containing M. tuberculosis are expelled into the air. Depending on the environment, these tiny particles (1-5 microns in diameter) can remain suspended in the air for several hours.

To become infected, a person usually has to spend a relatively long time in a closed environment where the air was contaminated by a person with untreated tuberculosis who was coughing and who had numerous M. tuberculosis organisms (or tubercle bacilli) in secretions from the lungs or voice box (larynx). Infection is generally transmitted through the air; therefore, there is virtually no danger of its being spread by dishes, linens, and items that are touched, or by most food products.

If another person inhales air containing droplet nuclei, transmission may occur. The probability that TB will be transmitted depends on four factors:

  1. the infectiousness of the person with TB (the number of organisms expelled into the air),

  2. the environment in which exposure occurred,

  3. the duration of exposure, and

  4. the virulence of the organism.

The best way to stop transmission is to isolate patients with infectious TB immediately and start effective TB therapy. Infectiousness declines rapidly after adequate therapy is started, as long as the patient adheres to the prescribed regimen.

Persons at the highest risk of becoming infected with M. tuberculosis are those who had prolonged, frequent, or intense contact with a person with infectious TB. These "case contacts" may be family members, roommates, friends, coworkers, or others. Data collected by CDC since 1987 show that infection rates have been relatively stable, ranging from 21% to 23% for the contacts of infectious TB patients.

If you have any questions about TB, please call your physician or our Health Service (832-1925). Phone calls will be returned in the order they have been received; we ask your patience.

For scheduling an appointment for a skin test:  Call 832-1926 ( appointment line)

Download the TB form:  Click on   Tuberculosis Screening Form 
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