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TB Facts

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What is TB?

TB is an infection caused by a bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can infect the lungs, bones, skin, and other body parts.

How is TB spread?

TB is spread when a person with active TB disease in the lungs coughs, talks, sings or breathes the germs out. If a susceptible person breathes in the bacteria they may become infected. Usually the only people infected by a person with active TB disease are those who are around that person for many hours.

What is Latent TB Infection?

For most people who breathe in TB bacteria, the body's immune system is able to fight the bacteria and stop them from growing. The bacteria become inactive, but remain alive in the body and could become active later. This is called TB infection. Persons with TB infection:

  • Have no symptoms
  • Don't feel sick
  • Can't spread TB to others
  • Usually have a positive skin test reaction
  • Can develop TB disease later in life if they do not receive preventive therapy

What is TB Disease?

A person with latent TB infection can develop TB disease if his/her immune system can't contain the infection. The symptoms of the disease will reflect where in the body the infection is growing. For most people, the infection is in the lungs. TB in the lungs may cause a bad cough that lasts longer than 2 weeks, a pain in the chest, and coughing up blood or sputum. Only people who are sick with TB in the lungs or larynx can spread the infection to others. People with TB disease will need to take special antibiotics to cure the disease. After this treatment, they will no longer be infectious.