Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by a bacteria Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. When a person with Tuberculosis (TB) of the lungs coughs or speaks the tuberculosis (TB) bacteria are put into the air. Tuberculosis is a droplet infection and passes through droplets from coughing or sneezing. When these droplets carrying the tuberculosis (TB) bacteria from an infected person reach the nose, eyes or mouth of another person, they can transmit the bacteria. People in close contact with a patient with tuberculosis (TB) of the chest breathes in tuberculosis (TB) bacteria and gets infected.
Will all people in contact with a patient with Tuberculosis (TB) get infected?
No, all patients in contact with a patient with tuberculosis (TB) will not get infected. The rate of infection depends on the proximity and duration of the contact with the patient. Hence the chances of infection are highest in household contacts.
Will all people with Tuberculosis (TB) infection develop symptoms?
No, most healthy people will not develop symptoms of tuberculosis (TB). This condition where the bacteria is inside the body but the person does not have symptoms is called as TB infection or better known as latent tuberculosis (TB). The tuberculosis (TB) bacteria can remain inside our body without harming us. In some children or adults the tuberculosis (TB) bacteria will multiply rapidly and spread leading to symptoms of tuberculosis (TB).
When are the chances of Tuberculosis (TB) progressing from TB infection to TB disease are high?
The chances of progression from tuberculosis (TB) infection or latent tuberculosis (TB) to tuberculosis (TB) disease are highest in young children especially less than 5 years old as their immune system is not well developed. In addition the chances are higher in children with nephrotic syndrome, malignancy or if they are on any immunosuppressive medicines.
How can we reduce the chances of spread of the Tuberculosis (TB) bacteria?
The chances of spread of TB bacteria can be reduced by good cough etiquettes like covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance.
How can we reduce the chances of progression from latent Tuberculosis (TB) to tuberculosis (TB) disease?
The chances of progressing from a latent tuberculosis (TB) to tuberculosis (TB) disease can be reduced by giving a medicine known as isoniazid. The medicine has to be taken once in a day for a period of around 6 months. This reduces the chances of latent tuberculosis (TB) converting into active tuberculosis (TB) disease by approximately 60 to 70%. This is recommended in children under five years of age, household contacts of an adult with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).
If there is anyone in your family suspected to have tuberculosis (TB) infection or disease consult a pediatric pulmonologist or tuberculosis expert.