For many decades, death was likely for people with tuberculosis (TB). World TB Day celebrates the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the cause of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a small rod-shaped bacteria. At the time of Koch’s announcement, TB was raging through both Europe and the Americas. It caused the death of one out of every seven people. Dr. Koch’s discovery was an important step toward the control and elimination of this deadly disease.
Scientists later learned that there are two types of TB Conditions:
- TB Disease and
- Latent (or inactive) TB infection.
People with TB Disease are sick from active TB bacteria. They usually have symptoms such as cough, fever, tiredness, or weight loss. They may spread the bacteria to others.
People with latent TB infection:
- Do not feel sick,
- Do not have symptoms, and
- Cannot spread TB bacteria to others.
If left untreated, the inactive, non-contagious form of TB can become an infectious form of the disease.
TB in Virginia
TB was the first disease that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) addressed when it was formed in 1908. At that time, VDH had a staff of four and a budget of $40,000. At least half of the budget was used to help the 12,100 Virginians living with TB at that time. Today, TB remains an important preventable disease in Virginia. Treating cases of infectious TB disease is important, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. We will never end TB without screening people for latent TB infection and treating it to prevent its progression. Treatment for LTBI can be as short as one dose of medicine a week for 12 weeks!
Should you be screened for latent (or inactive) TB Infection? You may want to contact your health provider or local health department if you:
- Have close contact (in your home or workplace) with a person with infectious TB disease;
- Have lived or visited for 3 months or more in a country where tuberculosis is common;
- Have been homeless and lived in a shelter or other setting where many people live together;
- Have a medical condition that makes it hard for your body to fight infections, such as diabetes mellitus, severe kidney disease or HIV infection;
- Take medical treatments such as steroids on a regular basis or take special medicines for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s Disease.
Want more information about Latent Tuberculosis Infections? Please visit:
- The Virginia Department of Health, Division of Tuberculosis and Newcomer Health Website
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s LTBI Information page