Watch TB Every Day
How to keep tuberculosis from spreading
WHAT IS TUBERCULOSIS
Tuberculosis or "TB" is a disease caused by a bacterium called
Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually affects the lungs
but it can also affect other parts of the body, including the
glands, the bones and, rarely, the brain.
Symptoms can include any of the following:
1. Fever and night sweats
2. Cough (generally lasting more than two weeks)
3. Weight loss
4. Blood in the sputum (phlegm) at any time
Someone with any of these symptoms should visit their family
doctor for advice.
The most important way to keep from spreading TB is to take all
your medications exactly as instructed by your doctor or nurse.
You should also keep all of your clinic appointments. Your
doctor or nurse needs to see how you are doing. You may need
another chest x-ray or a test of the phlegm you may cough up.
These tests will show whether the medicine is working. They will
also show whether you can still give TB bacteria to others. Be
sure to tell the doctor about anything you think is wrong.
WHAT TO DO
If you are sick enough to go to a hospital, you may be put in a
special room. These rooms use air vents that keep TB bacteria
from spreading. People who work in these rooms must wear a
special facemask to protect themselves from TB bacteria. You
must stay in the room so that you will not sp read TB bacteria
to other people. Ask a nurse if you need anything that is not in
If you are infectious while staying at home, there are certain
things you can do to protect yourself and others near you. Your
doctor may tell you to follow these guidelines to protect
yourself and others:
1. The most important thing is to take your medicine.
2. Always cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough, sneeze
or laugh. Put the tissue in a closed paper sack and throw it
3. Do not go to work or school. Separate yourself from others
and avoid close contact with anyone. Sleep in a bedroom away
from other family members.
4. Air out your room often (if it is not too cold outside). TB
spreads in small closed spaces where air doesn't move. Put a fan
in your window to blowout (exhaust) air that may be filled with
TB bacteria. If you open other windows in the room, the fan also
will pull in fresh air. This will reduce the chances that TB
bacteria stay in the room and infect someone who breathes the
NO MORE RISK
Another type of TB called
caused by Mycobacterium bovis can arise from drinking
contaminated milk. This form of TB is now rare, as pasteurization
of milk kills the bacteria.
SPREAD IN THE
TB is usually spread in the air from another person who has TB
of the lungs. It is spread through coughing, sneezing or
spitting. Only some people with TB in the lungs are infectious
to other people; these cases are called "sputum smear positive"
or "open" cases. Even then, infection only occurs with close and
prolonged contact with such a person (i.e., family member,
friend, nanny, co-worker). Most sputum smear positive cases stop
being infectious after about two weeks of treatment.
Remember, TB is spread through the air. People cannot get
infected with TB bacteria through handshakes, sitting on toilet
seats or sharing dishes and utensils with someone who has TB.
After you take medicine for about two or three weeks, you may no
longer be able to spread TB bacteria to others. If your doctor
or nurse agrees, you will be able to go back to your daily
Remember, you will get well only if you take your medicine
exactly as your doctor or nurse tells you. Think about people
who may have spent time with you, such as family members, close
friends and co-workers. The local health department may need to
test them for TB is especially dangerous for children and people
with HIV infection. If infected with TB bacteria, these people
need preventive therapy right away to keep from developing TB
Those at risk
The following people have a greater chance of becoming ill with
TB, if exposed to it:
1. Those in every close contact with infectious people
3. Elderly people
5. People on steroids
6. People on other drugs affecting the body's defense system
7. People who are HIV-positive
8. People in overcrowded, poor alcohol
9. People with chronic poor health
TB Treatment on
Yes, today TB is completely curable. And the best way to do it
is with DOTS-directly observed treatment short-course. Efficient
and inexpensive, DOTS is proven to cure and prevent the spread
of TB in even the poorest countries. Millions of death could be
prevented through the widespread use of DOTS.
DOTS is a TB program through which patients receive six to eight
months of treatment free. A key principle is that every dose of
medicine taken is observed and recorded by an authorized person
for at least the first two months. This is to ensure that
patients take all their medicine. A treatment observer is anyone
willing, trained and accountable to the TB control program. Most
patients can be treated at home or at a clinic, avoiding costly
Ask your local health department about DOTS.