TB or tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that spreads by inhaling small droplets from sneezes or coughs of an infected person. The condition primarily affects the lungs but can also impact any body parts, including the abdomen, bones, glands, and nervous system. TB is a treatable condition with the right antibiotics; if not, it can also potentially turn into a severe condition.
The common symptoms of TB can include:
- Persistent coughing, which can last more than three weeks and brings up phlegm (bloody)
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- High temperature
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Neck swelling
Kindly don’t self-diagnose; consult a doctor if you have a cough that lasts more than three weeks or you cough blood.
Since TB is a bacterial infection, it is the most contagious type that spreads only after exposure to someone with the illness and affects the lungs (pulmonary TB).
Healthy people’s natural defense system helps to prevent infection and illness. The immune system kills the bacteria, leading them not to have any symptoms. For some, the immune system prevents bacteria from spreading in the body but cannot kill them.
Latent TB is when people have zero symptoms but have bacteria in the body. Also, people with latent TB cannot infect others.
When the immune system fails to contain or spread the bacteria, it can spread to the lungs and other body parts, where the person will develop symptoms within weeks or months; this is active TB.
Latent TB can also develop into an active TB later, especially when the immune system weakens.
TB is almost always curable with treatment, post which there will be a course of antibiotics for six months. Depending on the form or type of TB, there are several different antibiotics for the treatments since some are resistant to certain antibiotics. Drug-resistant TB requires treatment with six or more different medications. Pulmonary TB requires quarantine for about three weeks with a course of treatment.
Isolation is not always the solution, but it’s crucial to plan basic precautions to control the spread. To be more cautious:
- Stay away from school, college, or work until your doctor advises it’s safe to return
- Cover your mouth while sneezing, laughing, or coughing
- Dispose of used tissues in a covered or sealed plastic bag
- Get a good supply of fresh air
- Don’t sleep in the same room as others
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022