Tomorrow is World Tuberculosis day. Although TB incidences have significantly declined since the advent of antibiotics, and in fact were at a record low in 2011, there are still more than 10,000 cases a year in the United States. Worldwide, about one in three people is infected.
Not all infected patients become sick; tuberculosis often stays dormant after the initial infection, sometimes for years. Infants and elderly people are at high risk for active TB, as are people with weakened immune system due to illness or medication.
Symptoms of TB include:
- A cough that lasts for more than two weeks or is bloody
- Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
- Fever and night sweats
Fortunately, TB is often treatable, although there is no effective vaccine. The standard medical treatment, in fact, has not changed for decades. There are several medications that can be used to treat latent infection, after someone has been exposed to the bacteria but before they’ve gotten sick. This is important for people in high-risk groups. Other medications treat the disease itself.