Tb, better known as tuberculosis is an infection that affects primarily the lungs. It is a bacteria that is called mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is principally spread from person to person from breathing the air of someone who is infected. You can have tuberculosis for years and do not know that you have it as it can lay dormant for years. When the immune system of an infected person is compromised, it can be activated and this can be how it is spread. Some of the common signs of TB include fatigue, fever, weight loss, coughing and night sweats. A German physician named Robert Koch won a Nobel Prize when he isolated the virus in 1882. While Tb principally affects the lungs, it can spread to other organs of the body. TB was also known as consumption because patients often wasted away. Hippocrates had another name for it. That was phthisis which in Greek means consumption. It was the most widely spread disease at the time, which was 460 B.C.
Principally what happens to the body when a person gets TB is the bacteria enters the lungs and can multiply causing an infection. The lymph nodes can also become infected and can become enlarged. The lymph nodes that are around the heart can also become involved in the Tb infection. The body’s immune system can fight off the infection usually. The immune system will surround the bacteria from Tb and cover it with scar tissue. When this happens, the TB is considered to be in an inactive stage. If the body’s immune system is weakened the bacteria can then affect the person, who can then spread it to others through their sputum.
TB can also affect those who are principally living with another person who has TB. When the big outbreak was going on in the United States, most people went to a TB camp and were put into isolation. It is also common among homeless people. Homeless people do not live in the cleanest environments and are often in very close quarters with each other. They also tend to share alcohol bottles, and if one person has it, it can be spread to many in the same homeless area. TB is often diagnosed with a chest x-ray. There is also a skin test that can be done. There is a vaccine that is available and is called Bacille Calmette Guerin, and it does offer some protection. This vaccine is used in countries where there are wide spread problems of TB, even today. Some people are treated with antibiotics, even when their TB is not active. The anti biotic that is used is called Isoniazid or INH, and needs to be taken for up to 12 months. If you are TB positive, but it is inactive, there is a 5-10% chance that it can become active. The anti biotic is not advised for those that are pregnant, have liver disease or suffer from alcoholism. If on INH, your doctor needs to monitor your liver and make sure that it is working effectively.
Tips and comments
Health care workers are advised to get tested for Tb each year. Since working with the sick, it is principally a safety measure to get the test done. Some places will fire you for refusing to take the test.