How does TB spread?

According to statistics stated by the WHO, 10 million people fall ill with tuberculosis every year. Despite being a preventable and curable disease, it is responsible for the death of 1.5 million people each year.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection which mostly affects the lungs, but can also affect other organs like the kidney, spine and the brain. TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MT) and is an air-borne infection. The TB germs are carried through the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, speaks, laughs or sings. People around the infected person may breathe this air, and become infected.

It is important to note that TB does not spread through clothes, glass or utensils, handshake, toilet, or other surfaces.

There are two types of tuberculosis – latent TB infection and TB disease. When TB germs live in your body without making you sick, it is called latent infection. A latent infection occurs because the TB germs are inactive in the body. This infection may or may not develop into TB disease. When TB germs are active in the body and are multiplying, it is called TB disease.

If you have been around someone who has TB disease, you must visit the doctor and get yourself tested. There are two types of tests to detect TB – skin test and blood test. The skin test involves injecting testing material (tuberculin) under the skin which is observed for a reaction after 2-3 days. The blood tests, on the other hand, measure the patient’s immune system reaction to the TB germs.

Other TB tests include chest x-ray and sputum sampling, i.e. testing the phlegm coughed up by the infected person.

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