Tuberculosis A Quick Guide

When you are out and about in public, you probably do not frequently worry about what the consequences of a stranger’s cough, sneeze, or sniffle could be. Whether it is visiting a foreign place on vacation, crammed in on a crowded public transit, or any situation that puts you around strangers who sound sick, there is a chance that you are at risk for a TB infection.

Active carrying vs inactive carrying.

Tuberculosis, often referred to as TB, is an infectious disease that is spread from person to person via the air, such as coughing and sneezing. In developed first world countries such as the United States, TB infection is rare, controlled, and vaccinated against, but exposure to the disease does happen. And, it does have the potential to be very serious.

However, it is possible that your body carries the bacteria responsible for the TB infection, but your immune system is able to fight it. For this reason, carriers of TB are slotted into two categories: latent TB carriers and active TB carriers.

If you are a latent TB carrier, you are still considered an infected individual, but the bacteria are inactive and you experience no symptoms. It can, however, turn active at any point. This form of tuberculosis is not contagious to other individuals, though, because you are not actively coughing or sneezing to spread the disease.

As an active TB carrier, you will know you are sick with the disease and you are able to spread it to other people. If you come into contact with the TB bacteria, you may become actively sick immediately, or it may take up to several years to occur. If you begin experiencing the symptoms of tuberculosis, it is time to seek medical help and visit your doctors for TB testing.

Symptoms.

Here are some of the signs to watch for that may indicate you have been exposed to tuberculosis: coughing that persists for longer than three or four weeks, coughing up blood, pain or difficulty with breathing and coughing, night sweats and chills, fever and fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss.

There is a chance that the TB infection will harm you beyond the respiratory system if you allow it to go untreated. If the infection were able to spread to your kidneys, for example, you may experience blood and pain during urination.

Why are TB cases on the rise?

While TB is traditionally caused by the spreading of bacteria through the air from person to person, there are some modern factors that have caused increases in the disease’s appearances. One of these is the spike in cases of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, a disease that attacks the immune system and causes AIDS. Since the immune systems of those infected with HIV are compromised, they are more vulnerable to tuberculosis and its systems.

Additionally, our efforts to combat TB are part of the very reason that case numbers are increasing. Since the first introduction of TB vaccinations and antibiotics, the bacteria that is responsible for the disease has mutated into several drug-resistant strains. Since there is a greater chance that an invasion of TB bacteria in the body will be resistant to any antibiotics and vaccinations you have, there is a greater chance of you coming down with the disease.

Lifestyle choices and other health factors will affect your odds of coming into contact with TB as well. These lifestyle choices include living in a region where the TB infection rates are higher, such as Africa, tobacco use, and being an IV drug user. If you are a victim of diabetes, HIV, cancer, or malnutrition, you are considered a high TB risk individual as well.

Choosing a career in healthcare is an honorable decision, but it will also raise your TB infection exposure odds. Regular contact with those who are ill will make you at higher risk than others.

Tuberculosis is not something we think of actively preventing ourselves against until it is too late. Thankfully, your preventative measures do not have to be too severe: good personal hygeine, regular visits to your local doctor, and extra care when travelling the globe will keep your health in good shape and your risk of infection low.

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