Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that occurs in a latent form that shows no symptoms and in an active form that many recognize as a persistent cough triggered by the mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. However, this bacteria does not only attack the lungs. It can be present in a patient’s spine, brain, or kidneys, and other vital organs. As such, coughing is not the only symptom. TB also causes night sweats and fever, as well as bloody mucus and weight loss.
TB, as it is often called, spreads from person to person by the air. It is present in a person’s breath and, therefore, spreads when someone is close to a carrier who coughs, sneezes, or even talks. It is estimated that around a quarter of the world’s population has tuberculosis in a latent or active form, although half of those cases come from only eight countries, including China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
In the United States, between 5 and 10 percent of the population test positive for TB, despite the Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine that is most commonly given to young children. The vaccine is not 100 percent effective and the guidelines for physicians prescribing the vaccine are restrictive. The vaccine is prescribed for children who are in close contact with persons with active forms of TB. Beyond that, the vaccine is given to nurses, doctors, and clinic staff members who are in regular contact with active cases,
In its active form, TB can take months to treat effectively and involves a long-term regiment of antibiotics and bed rest. The disease has been present since ancient times and is, worldwide, the most dangerous infectious disease in modern society. In 2018, TB killed 1.5 million people around the world out of 10 million cases. Lethality is more prominent with persons who smoke or have the HIV/AIDS virus.
In its latent form, persons carry the TB bacteria but do not spread the disease.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
TB can be diagnosed through skin tests, chest X-rays, or blood analysis. However, persons who have received the TB vaccine can test positive as well. However, as TB is latent more often than active, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that testing be done only when two symptoms are present. Concurrently, both the active and latent forms of TB can be treated, the agency says.
The guidelines for diagnosing TB include a cough that continues for three weeks or more, a pain in the chest, coughing up bloody mucus or phlegm, weakness and fatigue, weight loss, a loss of appetite, night sweats, chills, and fever-like symptoms.
Treatment for Latent TB
TB is a long-term infection if left untreated, which implies that long-term bed rest will not be sufficient to rid a patient of the disease. You cannot wait it out. It must be diagnosed and treated by specialists such as the San Diego internal medicine doctors.
The guidelines for treatment are also long-term with the medication prescribed under guidelines that should be discussed with your physician.
Tuberculosis is known as an illness that was prevalent in ages past. Now that there are better treatments, healthier environments, and even a vaccine, it could be assumed that TB has faded into obscurity. However, we should still be on guard and world travelers still have opportunities to be in close contact with this infectious disease.
If you believe you have been exposed to an active case of TB, consult the internal medicine doctors in San Diego at the Pacific Medical Care clinic. Dial 619-33308114 for an appointment today.