Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs. But, TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. TB disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States.
TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active 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 become sick. People who are not sick have what is called latent TB infection. People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others. But, some people with latent TB infection go on to get TB disease.
People with active TB disease can be treated and cured if they seek medical help. Even better, people with latent TB infection can take medicine so that they will not develop active TB disease.
You should get tested for TB if:
The TB skin test:
The TB skin test may be used to find out if you have TB infection. You can get a skin test at the Student Health Center, the health department or at your doctor's office. A health care worker will inject a small amount of testing fluid (called tuberculin or PPD) just under the skin on the under side of the forearm. After 2 or 3 days, you must return to have your skin test read by the health are worker. You may have a swelling where the tuberculin was injected. The health care worker will measure this swelling and tell you if your reaction to the test is positive or negative. A positive reaction usually means that you have been infected by someone with active TB disease.
If you have a positive reaction to the TB skin test or the QFT, your doctor or nurse may do other tests to see if you have active TB disease. These tests usually include a chest x-ray. If you have active TB disease, you will need to take medicine to cure the disease.
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