Tuberculosis or TB, is an infectious disease spread through microscopic droplets released into the air by an infected person.  The bacteria spreads when a person with active TB sneezes, coughs, speaks, sings, laughs, or spits.  It mainly targets your lungs, but TB can be spread to other parts of your body, affecting different organs.  

Latent Tuberculosis and Active Tuberculosis

Many people carry the tuberculosis bacteria, but their immune systems are able to prevent any illness.  Due to this, there are two classifications of tuberculosis, Latent TB and Active TB.

An Estimated 2 Billion People Have Latent TB.

Those diagnosed with Latent TB, carry the bacteria in an inactive state, causing no symptoms.  Although it’s not contagious, Latent tuberculosis can suddenly become active, reinforcing the importance of proper medical treatment to keep things under control.  

Signs & Symptoms of Active TB.

Active TB is the harmful version of the tuberculosis bacteria and is contagious.  It’s a diseases that can come on soon after initial infection or it can occur years down the road.  

Some of the symptoms that characterize active TB Infection are:

  • persistent coughing for over 3 weeks
  • coughing up blood
  • breathing pains
  • coughing pains
  • chest pain
  • sudden unintentional weight loss
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • chills
  • night sweats 

Although these symptoms are often associated with active tuberculosis, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have active TB.  A doctor can perform a test that can determine that for sure with a simple TB test.

How Contagious is Tuberculosis?

Although TB is a contagious disease, it’s not easy to catch.  Unlike the flu, where you can catch the virus just being in a crowded area or from a complete stranger.  You stand a stronger chance of contracting the bacteria from someone you have frequent close contact with, like a family member, school mate, or co-worker.

Reasons TB is so prevalent.

At one point it was very uncommon to catch TB in the developed world.  That all changed in the 1980’s when the HIV virus, the virus that causes AIDS, first emerged.  Many with the HIV virus were now unable to fight off the TB bacteria due to their compromised immune systems, causing this sudden resurgence.

Since 1993 Tuberculosis has decreased in the United States, but is still a concern for many.

Drug resistant strains of the tuberculosis virus is another cause for it being such a crucial disease in the world.  Those diagnosed with active TB are predominately prescribed multiple medications over the span of a few months, to fully eradicate the disease.  When infected with active TB, you should always complete the full medical treatment for your infection so that the bacteria doesn’t build up a resistance.

Who is more at risk of contracting TB?

Like many diseases, tuberculosis doesn’t discriminate.  Anyone can contract TB, but certain factors can increase your chance of catching the disease.  Medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Cancer Treatments, Transplant Organ Rejection Medication, and severe kidney diseases weaken the immune system and increase the risk of catching tuberculosis.  

TB is more prevalent in certain regions of the world.

Certain countries and regions of the world run a higher risk of contracting TB than others.  Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Russia, Latin America, and the Caribbean Islands are parts of the world where drug resistant TB is very common.