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Diseases & Topics

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria that can damage the lungs or other parts of the body like the spine, lymph nodes or kidneys. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

TB is spread through the air from one person to another when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. Family members, roommates and close friends of the sick person are more likely to become infected than the general public. This is because they spend long periods of time together in enclosed spaces like a home or car. TB is not spread by shaking hands, kissing, sex, sharing plates, glasses, utensils, clothing, bedding or furniture.

Most people who become infected with TB do not get sick. Their bodies are able to fight the germs. This condition is known as latent TB infection (LTBI). People with LTBI cannot infect other people. However, without proper antibiotic treatment, the infection can progress to active TB disease.

A person with active TB disease may be infectious to others and must receive treatment for the condition. By law, physicians must report TB cases to the local health department. Both LTBI and TB disease require medical attention. In North Carolina, treatment of both conditions is provided free through local health departments External link).

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