March 24, 2011
TUBERCULOSIS: FACT VS. FICTION
Get the Facts on World TB Day March 24
(Richmond, Va.) Tuberculosis (TB) was the first program established within the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) over a century ago. In spite of the misconception that it is no longer a health threat, TB continues to infect Virginians of all races, ages and walks of life. Do you know fact from fiction when it comes to TB?
Myth: I shouldn’t be concerned about TB.
Fact: Although the number of TB cases has slowly declined in recent years, Virginia reported 268 cases in 2010 as compared to 273 cases in 2009. TB affects people of all ages and walks of life.
Myth: TB only affects the elderly.
Fact: Over half of the TB cases in Virginia last year were in people younger than age 45, impacting people in their prime working years, as well as children.
Myth: Only foreign-born people get TB.
Fact: Almost one-third of the TB cases in Virginia were among people born in the US.
Myth: TB is incurable and everyone who gets it dies from it.
Fact: TB is curable, as long as people with TB take the medications as ordered by their health care provider. This usually means taking several drugs for 6 to 9 months. People with TB may start to feel better within a few weeks or months, but they must continue taking their medicines because the TB bacteria are very strong. The best way to make sure medicines are taken correctly is through a program the health department uses called directly observed therapy, or DOT. With DOT, a health care worker visits the patients to ensure that they take their medicines.
TB is transmitted from person to person through the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. To catch TB, a person must be in very close contact with someone who has TB disease. Examples include living, working closely, or being in the same class for an extended period with someone who has TB disease. This means that not everyone who works at the same place or goes to school with a person who has TB disease will contract TB.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of TB can help keep you healthy. Symptoms of TB disease in the lungs include coughing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. Other symptoms of TB disease include feeling sick or weak, losing weight without trying, fever and night sweats. Because doctors don’t see a large number of patients with TB, it is not always the first thing they suspect. If you think you have these symptoms, contact your doctor or local health department and ask about the possibility of TB. In addition, if you have close contact with someone who has TB disease, you should seek medical attention and ask to be evaluated for TB.
For more information about TB in Virginia visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/DiseasePrevention/Programs/Tuberculosis/index.htm.