March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. While great strides have been made to control and cure tuberculosis (TB), people still get sick and die from this disease. In 2014, 9.6 million people around the world became sick with TB disease, and there were 1.5 million TB-related deaths worldwide. In Boston, 37 cases of active TB were reported in 2015. Racial ethnic minorities and foreign-born residents are more likely to have TB in Boston than other groups.
TB can be cured, but it continues to be one of the world's deadliest diseases. It is spread by tiny germs that can float in the air. When a person with TB disease coughs, shouts or sneezes they can spray these germs into the air. If another person breathes in these germs, they can get TB. Some people may have the TB germ in their body, but do not feel sick. This is called latent or "sleeping" TB infection. Others feel sick, and they have active TB disease.
People with TB disease can feel tired, have a cough, fever and night sweats. Even though 70% of those infected with TB have the germs in their lungs, TB can also infect other places in the body such as the bone, brain or lymph glands.
Test for TB!
A simple test on the arm (TB skin test) can tell you if you have the TB germ in your body. A blood test is also sometimes used to see if a person has the germ in their body. Additional tests such as a chest x-ray or sputum (phlegm) test may be necessary for some people.
People should be tested for TB if:
- They have spent time with someone who has TB disease
- They are HIV positive or have another medical problem that weakens their immune system
- They have symptoms of TB disease (fever, night sweats, cough, and weight loss)
- They are from a country where TB disease is common (most countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia)
- They live or work in places in the United States where TB disease is more common (homeless shelters, prison or jails, or some nursing homes)
- They use illegal drugs
TB is treatable! There are medications that can cure TB and help people stay healthy! It is important to continue taking the medications until treatment is complete. If medication is stopped too soon, the TB germ can come back and become very hard to fight off.
Resources in Boston
Boston Public Health Commission operates a TB clinic that offers both diagnostic and therapeutic services for TB.
The clinic is located at:
Boston Medical Center
Preston Family Building, 5th floor
732 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
Remember, TB is treatable and preventable!
To learn more about TB, visit: http://www.bphc.org/whatwedo/infectious-diseases/Tuberculosis/Pages/Tuberculosis.aspx