June 14, 2007
We've been hearing a lot recently about the man with tuberculosis who took an international flight. Questions are still being asked about whether other passengers were at risk. Dr. Mom clears the air today and also has some advice for those of you who plan to fly this summer.
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease that usually affects the lungs but it may spread and affect other parts of the body. When a person with TB disease coughs, they may be spreading the TB germ to anyone in close vicinity to them. If someone gets infected with the TB germ, they may not become sick but harbor the infection in their lungs for years (latent TB). In fact, about one-third of the world's population has been infected with TB, with one new infection occurring every second. Only 10% of these people will ever develop active TB disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year tuberculosis kills nearly 2 million people worldwide.
When a person has the TB germ and is sick with the disease. The person with active TB can infect those in close contact. The person with active TB is contagious. TB is usually treated with a course of four standard, or first-line, anti-TB drugs. Two of the most powerful anti-TB drugs are isoniazid and rifampicin.
Multi-Drug Resistant TB
Some TB germs become resistant to the TB drugs when the disease is not properly treated or medications are not taken as directed by the physician. Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) is a dangerous form of TB because it does not respond to the first-line anti-TB drugs.
Extensively Drug Resistant TB
Extensively Drug Resistant TB is a very rare type of drug resistant TB. XDR-TB can develop when the TB germs do not respond to the first and second-line anti-TB drugs. Treatment options are limited.
When a person has the TB germ in their body, but their body's defenses are protecting them from the germs and they are not sick. The individual with latent TB is not contagious.
If you think you have been exposed to someone with the tuberculosis disease, contract your doctor or local health department about getting a TB skin test or a blood test called Quantiferon-TB Gold test.For more information: