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Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection. It may be either active or latent. Active TB infection is most common in the lungs, but it can occur in other places in the body. People with latent TB are infected but do not have the disease.
TB is caused by a specific bacterium. It is easily spread between people. The bacteria travels through the air in droplets from a person with an active TB infection. The droplets are released with coughs, sneezes, or talking. The bacteria in the droplets can be breathed in by other people.
Bacteria is inhaled through the mouth and nose, and travels down into the lungs causing TB.
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Babies, young children, and older adults are more likely to get TB when exposed.
Other things that may raise the risk of TB exposure are:
Things that may raise the risk of active TB are:
Active TB may cause:
Active TB may be found during a routine check-up. You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your TB exposure. A physical exam will be done.
These tests will be done to look for signs of infection:
These tests may be done to rule out active TB:
The infection will need to be treated. This can be done with a combination of medicines. Treatment often lasts 6 months or longer. All the medicine must be finished to prevent drug-resistant TB.
Someone with active TB can easily spread the infection to others. This can be prevented by staying home and avoiding contact with others.
To lower the risk of TB:
American Lung Association
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
Chee CBE, Reves R, et al. Latent tuberculosis infection: Opportunities and challenges. Respirology. 2018 Oct;23(10):893-900.
Pulmonary tuberculosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pulmonary-tuberculosis-27. Accessed October 13, 2020.
Tuberculosis (TB). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm. Accessed October 13, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 10/13/2020