Many people hear a mention of TB, and wonder what TB is. When talking about a disease, TB is an abbreviation of the word Tuberculosis. It is very often that when talking about Tuberculosis people refer instead to TB. This can cause considerable confusion as to what TB is. There have also been many different names for TB over the years.
TB is an infectious disease
The basic answer to what TB is, is that it is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs. Instead of TB being referred to as being infectious, it is instead sometimes referred to as being contagious. This basically means the same thing. It means that TB can be spread from one person to another.
How does TB spread from one person to another?
TB is caused by bacteria which get spread from one person to another. The scientific name for the bacteria that cause TB is Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria are spread from person to person through microscopic droplets that are released into the air when a person who already has TB coughs, speaks, sneezes, spitss, laughs or even sings.
Then someone else nearby inhales the droplets that have been expelled and which contain the bacteria.
Does everyone who inhales the bacteria become sick?
If you are infected with the bacteria you won't necessarily become sick because you can have either latent TB or TB disease. People with latent TB do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms.
Is TB a serious disease?
TB is a disease which has existed for a very long time. Some drugs have been developed which can cure most people who get TB. But the drugs have to be taken for a very long time. Usually the TB drugs have to be taken for at least six months. So it is still a very serious disease which kills more people every year than any other infectious disease.
This page was last updated in September 2019.
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