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Information about tuberculosis

January 06, 2012

Harrisburg, Pa. — A reported case of tuberculosis at an area high school has made headlines. Tuberculosis, or TB, bacteria are spread through the air.  When a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, or speaks, people nearby might breathe in these bacteria and become infected.



Facts about TB:

 Latent TB infection.  When a person is exposed to (breathes in) the TB germs, they may develop a latent TB infection. People with latent TB have no symptoms and can't pass the germ. If they don't get treatment, they could develop active tuberculosis.

 Active TB disease. When a person's immune system can not fight off the disease and stop it from growing, they develop active TB. The disease then breaks down tissue in the body, typically starting in the lungs, but can spread to the kidneys, brain, or spine.

 Symptoms of active TB disease. Weakness, weight loss, fever, night sweats, coughing lasting more than three weeks, chest pain, chills, no appetite, coughing up blood

 Developing TB. It could take weeks or years to develop active TB disease from a latent TB infection.

Two tests are used to diagnose tuberculosis, a skin test or a TB blood test. Each is typically effective in diagnosing latent TB infection, as well. The disease is treatable with medication over several months. Left untreated, tuberculosis can be deadly. If you think you might have been exposed to tuberculosis and have questions about whether or not you should be tested, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  They can advise you on whether or not you should be tested.  

Inquiries about specific cases of TB should be directed to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

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