Did you know that Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious, chronic, contagious infection caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis; It most commonly affects the lungs but can be a multi-organ disease affecting the kidney, spine and brain. There are two types of the condition – Latent TB and Active TB disease.
People with latent TB cannot spread the bacteria and usually do not show any symptoms or fall ill. Those who have active TB however, show symptoms of the disease and can spread the disease. This occurs because the immune system is weak and cannot stop the growth of the bacteria.
TB is spread from one person to another through droplets in the air. When a person with Active TB disease of the lungs coughs, sneezes, speaks, or even sings he or she puts the bacteria in the air. It is highly infectious and people nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. Overcrowded living conditions facilitate the spread of the disease. Tuberculosis cannot be contracted by shaking of hands, touching bed linens or toilet seats or kissing.
Who should get tested for TB?
Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, and so it is imperative that people living in countries where TB is widespread get tested. Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, India, China and Pakistan all have high Tuberculosis burdens.
Other groups that should get tested include:
- People living with medical conditions that affect the immune system such as HIV as TB is a leading killer of HIV-positive people causing one fourth of all HIV-related deaths.
- Babies and young children – in 2013, an estimated 550 000 children became ill with TB and 80 000 HIV-negative children died of TB.
- Health Care Workers who come in contact with actively infected patients
- People who live in places where TB disease is more common – Prisons/Jail Houses, Crowded Hospitals
- Substance Abusers – IV drug users, Alcohol and Tobacco
There are two kinds of tests that are used to detect TB bacteria in the body:
- Tuberculin Skin Test (PPD, Mantoux)
- Tuberculosis Blood Tests
If you have a positive reaction to either of the tests, a sample of sputum or phlegm, is then tested to see whether you have active TB disease.