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Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by a germ called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but can also damage other parts of the body. TB spreads through the air when an individual with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes or talks. If exposed, an individual should make an appointment with his/her physician for tests. Individuals with a weakened immune system are more likely to contract TB.

Symptoms of TB in the lungs may include

  • A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats

The Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST) is the standard method of determining whether a person is infected with TB. The TST is performed by injecting 0.1 ml of tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD) into the inner surface of the forearm. The skin test reaction is read between 48 and 72 hours after administration. A patient who does not return within 72 hours to have the skin test read will need to be rescheduled for another skin test.

Physicians also have the option of another TB blood test called QuantiFERON-TB Gold. Because the new TB test is a simple blood test, the patient is not required to return to have the test read as is the case with the traditional PPD skin test. TB experts have reported that the new TB blood test has fewer false positives than its traditional counterpart. Because there is no skin test to interpret, the new blood test eliminates all errors that result from poor interpretation of the PPD injection site.

If not treated properly, TB can be deadly. Active TB can usually be cured by taking several medications for a long period of time. Individuals with latent TB can take medication so that they do not develop active TB.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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