Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is transmitted through the air by prolonged contact with an infected person. Left undiagnosed or untreated, it can be fatal. Vaccines help prevent the incidence and spread of tuberculosis in high-risk countries.
TB can be transmitted when a person infected in the lungs talks, laughs, sneezes, or coughs. If you have prolonged contact with an infected person, you may become infected, too. There are two forms of tuberculosis, active or latent. Many infected people have the latent form of the disease, which means they are carrying the germ, but their immune system is protecting them from becoming ill. If a person is ill, then they have the active form. It should be noted that it is not that easy to contract TB, and, if diagnosed, it is treatable. Although uncommon in the United States, TB is the world’s leading cause of death via infectious disease. Vaccines are recommended for those living in or traveling to high-risk countries. Children are no longer routinely vaccinated for TB in the U.S.
Symptoms of TB & Treatment
Tuberculosis primarily affects the lungs, but may also impact the kidneys, spine, lymph nodes, or brain. Symptoms include cough, weakness, fever, sweating, and weight loss. Coughing up blood and lung material is common, as is pain when the disease invades the bones. Latent TB has no symptoms.
Tuberculosis is diagnosed through a skin or blood test. If the test comes back positive for the disease, a chest X-ray and a sputum test will be required. If you have the latent form, preventive therapy is recommended. The most common treatment is a daily pill of isoniazid (INH) taken for six to nine months.
With active TB, the treatment is a combination of drugs—isoniazid INH, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol—taken for six to 12 months. You may also have a short hospital stay until the drugs render you non-contagious. It is extremely important to take the medication regularly and as directed. If you stop, you will become ill again and able to infect others.
Tuberculosis, while still affecting millions of people globally, is a treatable disease and does not have to be fatal. HealthSmart Vaccines in Chantilly, VA, offers TB testing, travel and flu vaccines, and travel insurance and is a CDC Yellow Fever-approved center. Call (703) 961-0733 to schedule an appointment or go to their comprehensive website for more information about vaccines and vaccination services.