Tuberculosis (also known as TB disease) is caused by a bacterial infection that can kill healthy tissue in whichever organ it infects (usually the lungs). In rare instance, it affects the kidneys, spine or brain. It is contracted through contaminated air. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, talks or sings, it poses a threat to others because it contaminates the air with TB bacteria. When inactive, tuberculosis can remain dormant. But if activated, it can cause serious damage. If left untreated, it can be potentially fatal.

Who is at risk for Tuberculosis?

People with HIV or a weakened immune system of any kind are at particularly high risk of contracting tuberculosis. Other known risks include living in a place where TB disease is more common. Illegal drug use can also increase the odds of transmission. If a person has latent TB infection, that means they are not exhibiting symptoms and may not be contagious. When symptoms do occur, the CDC says they can take the form of a persistent cough lasting at least three weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood, fever, chills, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.

Treating Tuberculosis

When it comes to treating tuberculosis, this typically lasts six to nine months. (Even people with latent TB are sometimes advised to undergo treatment.) It is imperative that patients strictly adhere to the treatment plan to increase the likelihood of success. What’s more is that some forms of TB are resistant to drugs. However, a 2013 study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University discovered that vitamin C killed TB bacteria in lab cultures. Tuberculosis is diagnosed via two types of tests. A skin test is performed by injecting a small amount of tuberculin fluid into the skin, according to the CDC. A TB blood test measures how much the patient’s immune system reacts to the germs that cause TB.

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