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Tuberculosis (TB)

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Prevention

TB is an airborne disease and transmission essentially can be prevented through adequate ventilation and limited contact with patients.

Many people who are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) do not get sick or spread the bacteria to others — this is known as latent TB. In the United States and many other countries, healthcare providers try to identify people infected with Mtb as early as possible, before they advance from latent to active TB.

Some people at higher risk for developing active TB are:

  • People with HIV infection
  • People who became infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years
  • Babies and young children
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • People who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system
  • Elderly people
  • People who were not treated correctly for TB in the past

People in high risk groups can be treated with medicine to prevent active TB disease and should meet with their healthcare providers to determine the appropriate treatment.

TB Vaccine

In those parts of the world where the disease is common, the World Health Organization recommends that infants receive a vaccine called BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin). BCG is fairly effective in protecting small children from severe TB complications. It does not protect adults very well against lung TB, which is the form of TB that is easiest to spread to others. BCG is not currently recommended for infants in the United States.

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Last Updated March 19, 2012