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TB Outbreaks in Texas Schools Show Disease Still a Threat
Date:10/15/2011

lth experts divide infection with tuberculosis into two categories: latent TB infection and full-blown TB disease. The CDC estimates that more than 11.2 million people in the United States are living with latent TB infection.

People with latent infection have the germ in their bodies, but they don't feel sick and don't have symptoms because their immune systems are keeping the infection in check. The only sign of potential trouble is a positive reaction to the tuberculin skin test or special TB blood test. People with latent TB aren't infectious, they can't spread the disease and may never develop the disease. But, if the germ becomes active and multiplies, TB disease can result, according to the CDC.

TB disease, on the other hand, means the immune system can no longer keep the bacteria under control. Symptoms can include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer; chest pain; coughing up blood or sputum; weakness or fatigue; weight loss; lack of appetite; as well as chills, fever and night sweats, according to the CDC.

People with weakened immune systems -- especially those infected with HIV -- run a higher risk of TB infection than people with normal immune systems.

Currently, there are 10 drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat tuberculosis, including the first-line medicines isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide.

More information

For more on tuberculosis, visit the American Lung Association.

SOURCES: Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonary specialist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Kenneth Castro, M.D., director, Tuberculosis Elimination Program, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Kenneth Bromberg, M.D., chairman of pediatrics and director Vaccine Research Center, Brooklyn Hospital Center


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