WHAT IS TB?
"TB" is short for a disease called tubercolosis. TB is spread by tiny germs that can float in the air. The TB germs may spray into the air if a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat, coughs, shouts, or sneezes. Anyone nearby can breathe TB germs into their lungs.
TB germs can live in your body without making you sick. This is called TB infection. Your immune system traps TB germs with special germ fighters. Your germ fighters keep TB germs from making you sick.
But sometimes, the TB germs can break away and multiply. Then they cause TB disease. The germs can attack the lungs or other parts of the body. They can go to the kidneys, the brain, or the spine. If people have TB disease, they need medical help. If the don't get help, they can die.
HOW WAS I EXPOSED TO TB?
You may have been exposed to TB if you spent time near someone with TB disease of the lungs or throat. You can only get infected by breathing in TB germs that person coughs into the air. You cannont get TB from someone's clothes, drinking glass, handshake, or toilet.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE TB INFECTION?
If you have been exposed to TB germs, you will be given a TB skin test. If it is "positive", you probably have TB infection. If it is "negative", you may be retested in a few weeks, just to be sure. If you have TB infection, you may need medication.
A skin test is the oly way to tell if you have TB infection. This test is usually done on the arm. A small needle is used to put some testing material, called tuberulin, under the skin. In two or three days, a health worker will check to see if there is a reaction to the test. The test is "positive" if a bump about the size of a pencil eraser or bigger appears on your arm. This bump means you probably have TB infection.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE TB INFECTION?
If you have TB infection, you may need treatment so you will not get TB disease later. This is called "preventive" treatment. Isoniazid (INH) is the anti-TB drug used most often.
Unless you get preventive treatment, TB infection can turn into TB disease. Those who are more likely to get sick from TB disease include:
- alcoholics or injection drug users;
- people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, certain types of cancers and being underweight; and especially
- people with HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS).
These things make your body weaker. When your body is weaker, it can't fight TB germs anymore and TB infection can turn into TB disease.
It is very important that you take your preventive treatment as your doctor recommends. It takes at least six months to a year to kill all the TB germs. Remember, you will always have TB germs in your body unless you kill them with the right medicine.
Protect your family and friends from TB - take all your anti-TB drugs!