- Frequently Asked Questions
Hurricane Katrina displaced
people who were receiving treatment for tuberculosis before
evacuation should call 713-794-9078 to make arrangements to
What is TB?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease caused by a germ (called the
tubercle bacterium or Mycobacterium tuberculosis). TB usually
affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body, such
as the lymph nodes (glands), the bones and (rarely) the brain.
Infection with the TB germ may not develop into TB disease.
What are the symptoms?
TB disease develops slowly in the body, and it usually takes
several months for symptoms to appear.
Any of the following symptoms
may suggest TB:
- Night sweats\
- Persistent cough (productive
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Feeling fatigued/very tired
- Blood in your sputum (phlegm
How do you catch it?
The TB germ is usually spread in the air. It is caught from
another person who has TB of the lungs. The germ gets into the
air when that person coughs or sneezes.
But only some people with TB in the lungs are infectious to
other people. Even then, you need close and prolonged contact
with them to be at risk of being infected. Sputum smear positive
cases stop being infectious after a couple of weeks of treatment.
Can anyone get it?
Anyone can get TB. But it is difficult to catch. You are most
at risk if someone living in the same house as you catches the
disease, or a close friend has the disease.
The following people have a greater chance of becoming ill with
TB if exposed to it:
- Those in very close contact
with infectious people who have TB
- Elderly people
- People on steroids
- People on other drugs affecting
the body’s defense system
- People who are HIV-positive
- People in overcrowded, poor
- People who are dependent
on drugs or alcohol
- People with chronic poor
How is TB treated?
For many years now, we have had good medication to treat TB.
You have to take the medication regularly (usually pills) for
six to twelve months. TB can be cured and TB can be prevented.
Treatment is vital. If you have
TB disease, or if you have been infected with the germ but have
not yet developed TB, you must take the medication as directed.
It is very important to complete the full course of treatment,
as it will stop you from being infectious, and it will remove
the risk of you developing drug-resistant TB.
What if I have been
in contact with someone with TB?
Close contacts may be at risk of catching TB. A health care
worker can arrange a skin test and/or chest x-ray. This does
not mean that you have TB, but it is a chance to check for any
symptoms. People who have been in treatment for TB for two or
more weeks are generally not infectious.
Can TB be prevented?
Yes it can, in several ways:
Treating all people with TB
disease. People with infectious TB disease in their lungs can
pass the germ to other people until they have started treatment.
After about two weeks of treatment, they are no longer infectious
to other people.
Ensuring that all close contacts
of people with TB are seen promptly by a doctor. If we detect
infection with TB early, we can start treatment to prevent TB
disease from developing. Some people in high risk groups for
acquiring TB after close contact may be offered a course of
preventive therapy (chemoprophylaxis) if they have no clinical
or radiological evidence of active TB. Close contacts of a non-infectious
case may not be seen at all.
What is the difference
between TB disease and TB infection?
In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected,
the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.
The bacteria become inactive, but they remain alive in the body
and can become active later. This is called TB infection.
People with TB infection:
- Have no symptoms ·
Don't feel sick
- Can’t spread TB to
- Usually have a positive skin
- Have a normal chest x-ray
- Can develop TB disease later
Most people who have TB infection
will never develop TB disease. In these people, the TB bacteria
remain inactive for a lifetime without causing disease. But
in other people (for example, those who have weak immune systems),
the bacteria may become active and cause TB disease later in
their life time.