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Department of Health News 

This news item expired on 2/29/2008, so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.

Tuberculosis

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Communicable disease: A disease that is passed from one person to another.

What do you know about communicable diseases? Are they all preventable?

The Buncombe County Health Center has begun a series of short fact sheets about some of the more common communicable diseases that are seen in this area. A new fact sheet will be published once a month and past fact sheets will soon be available on the Buncombe County website, buncombecounty.org. We hope you find these fact sheets useful.

So … What do you know about tuberculosis?

What is it? Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease spread from person to person in the air. Normally, it will affect only the lungs but in some people, it may affect the brain, spine, kidneys and other organs.

How is it spread? Tuberculosis is spread when a person that has the TB germs in their lungs coughs, sneezes, sings or speaks. If you breathe in the germs you could get TB. Depending on the environment, the TB germs may be present in the air for several hours.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing – sometimes with blood present
  • Night sweats
  • General feeling of weakness

How would I know if I have it? People are tested for tuberculosis using a TB skin test.

  • A small amount of fluid is put into the skin in the lower arm.
  • After 72 hours you return to have your healthcare provider “read” or check the site. If a “reading” is positive, you will be given a chest x-ray to see if the TB germ is in their lungs.

How is TB treated? If diagnosed early by a doctor, tuberculosis can be treated and cured using antibiotics.

What is Latent TB infection? Sometimes, people will breathe in the TB germs and have the infection in their body but they are not sick or contagious. Sometimes people will learn that they have Latent TB infection by having a routine TB skin test. These people are often prescribed medicine to help kill the germ and keep them from getting sick in the future.

What else is important to remember?

  • If you have symptoms or think you may have been exposed to someone with TB disease, call your doctor for testing.
  • Symptoms or exposure = call your doctor

To learn more about tuberculosis, visit www.cdc.gov/tb/faqs/default.htm.