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Tuberculosis (TB)

What is tuberculosis?
Where is tuberculosis found?
What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?
How is tuberculosis spread?
How can I keep from getting tuberculosis?
Who is at risk of getting tuberculosis?
If I’ve been exposed to tuberculosis, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
Who should be tested for tuberculosis? How does it work?
What treatment options are available for tuberculosis?
How serious is tuberculosis?
How many cases of tuberculosis have been reported in Northern Kentucky?
Where can I get more information on tuberculosis?
 
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a communicable disease spread from person-to- person through the air. It generally affects the lungs, but can affect the brain, kidneys and spine. There are two different forms of TB: latent TB and active TB disease.

TB is deadly if not treated. TB in the body in an other part than the lungs or larynx is not able to be spread to other people.

Where is tuberculosis found?
TB is found worldwide.

What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?
General symptoms of TB disease may include feeling tired or sick, weight loss, fever or night sweats. When TB is in the lungs, there may be cough (usually brassy and non-productive), chest pain and possible coughing up of blood. Symptoms often develop gradually and worsen until treatment is started

How is tuberculosis spread?
TB of the lungs (pulmonary) is spread through human-to human contact by droplets that are expelled into the air when someone with TB disease coughs or sneezes. These droplets may be breathed in by others.

How can I keep from getting tuberculosis?
Limiting exposure to individuals with active TB disease can reduce your chances of contracting TB, as well as practicing cough etiquette by coughing into an tissue and disposing of it properly and frequent, careful hand washing.

Who is at risk of getting tuberculosis?
Anyone can get TB; however, certain people have a greater risk for developing it, including:

If I’ve been exposed to tuberculosis, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
The initial symptoms of TB can occur at any point after exposure. People exposed to TB often do not develop active TB disease, but once you have been infected with the bacteria, TB disease can develop months, even years after the initial infection.

Who should be tested for tuberculosis? How does it work?
You should be tested for TB if:

There are two common test methods for TB: a skin test and a blood test. The skin test can be administered by your health care provider or at the Health Department's county health centers. A small amount of testing fluid is injected under the skin on your lower arm. After two or three days, the amount of swelling is measured. The health care worker can determine by the amount of swelling if you have developed TB.

The blood test, which is not readily available, measures your blood’s response to TB proteins to determine if you have been infected.  

What treatment options are available for tuberculosis?
Currently, there are treatment options for latent and active tuberculosis disease. People who test positive for TB infection may take medications for six to nine months to keep them from developing TB disease.

It is important that people being treated for TB take all of their medication. Drug-resistant strains of TB develop when people with active TB disease do not take their medicine as prescribed and the bacteria develop a resistance to the drug. Drug-resistant TB is a very serious problem and very expensive and difficult to treat.

How serious tuberculosis?
TB is very deadly with a mortality rate of greater than 50 percent if left untreated. Approximately 2 million people worldwide die from TB every year.

How many cases of tuberculosis have been reported in Northern Kentucky?
 Eight new cases of active TB were reported in Northern Kentucky in 2012.  Approximately 22,000 cases are reported each year in the United States. Also, 10 million to 15 million people in the United States are infected with TB and could develop TB disease in the future.

Where can I get more information on tuberculosis?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or you can call the Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services