It’s nearly summer, and no one wants to think about anything but the end of the school year and upcoming vacations. But before you slip into vacation mode there’s something you need to do. It’s time to get a TB tests. Why? Because about 30% of the world’s population has Tuberculosis (TB) and with international travel so affordable, people are in constant motion, so an outbreak a world away can make its way to your neighborhood in a matter of hours.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a gnarly sounding name for a bacterium that usually attacks the lungs, but it can attack any part of the victim’s body including the spine, brain, and kidney.* Because TB grows in different areas of the body, the symptoms vary though they have some symptoms in common like fatigue or weakness, lack of appetite, weight loss, fever, chills, and night sweats. However, if TB is growing in the lungs (known as pulmonary TB), in addition to the previous symptoms, there may be chest pain, a bad cough for more than three weeks, and coughing up phlegm from deep inside the lungs or coughing up blood.
What’s unique about TB is that not everyone who’s infected becomes ill so they’re are two classifications – latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease.
Latent TB Infections
My mom and sister both have Latent TB Infections. They don’t feel ill, have no symptoms, but they test positive on TB tests. They can’t spread the bacteria to others as long as their immune systems stay healthy. They could have it for life without any problems. However, if their immune system becomes compromised, their TB bacteria could become active, and they could begin to experience symptoms; it also means they could then pass it on to others.
My aunt and her brother, my father, both had TB disease and spent a year in a sanitarium in their late teens and early twenties. My dad contracted it again, years later, and spent a year away from us when I was a small child. I remember visiting the County Health offices for TB tests. It believe we had them every six months, but if felt like it was much more often. It dominated our lives and plunged us into poverty; it was a difficult time for my parents.
TB Today and the TB Blood Test
Sanitariums are a thing of the past and today there are effective drugs that can eliminate the inactive bacteria before it becomes active and turns into full-blown Tuberculosis. But you have to know our TB status and get treatment. Make an appointment now with your primary healthcare provider before the crazy back-to-school shopping begins. It’s especially important if you have a child headed off to college, you or a family member have a weakened immune system, if you work in healthcare, or if you’ve been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with TB.
But what if you’ve been vaccinated for TB, do you still need a test? Yes. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends you have the test, too.
Knowing your TB status is easy – just one simple test. Have you called for your appointment? Summer is waiting!