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Tuberculosis or TB, as it’s commonly called, is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs. In 2015, 1.8 million people died from the disease, with 10.4 million falling ill.


The Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium causes TB. It is spread through the air when a person with TB (whose lungs are affected) coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs, or talks.


TB is contagious, but it is not easy to catch. The chances of catching TB from someone you live or work with are much higher than from a stranger. Most people with active TB who have received appropriate treatment for at least 2 weeks are no longer contagious.



Doctors make a distinction between two kinds of tuberculosis infection: latent and active.


Latent TB - the bacteria remain in the body in an inactive state. They cause no symptoms and are not contagious, but they can become active.


Active TB - the bacteria do cause symptoms and can be transmitted to others. There is a 10 percent chance of latent TB becoming active.



While latent TB is symptomless, the symptoms of active TB include the following:

  • Coughing that lasts three or more weeks, sometimes with mucus or blood

  • Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing

  • Chills

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Loss of weight

  • Loss of appetite

  • Night sweats


If you test positive for latent TB infection, your doctor may advise you to take medications to reduce your risk of developing active tuberculosis. The only type of tuberculosis that is contagious is the active variety, when it affects the lungs. So if you can prevent your latent tuberculosis from becoming active, you won't transmit tuberculosis to anyone else.

In countries where tuberculosis is more common, infants often are vaccinated with bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine because it can prevent severe tuberculosis in children.



The majority of TB cases can be cured when the right medication is available and administered correctly. The precise type and length of antibiotic treatment depends on a person's age, overall health, potential resistance to drugs, whether the TB is latent or active, and the location of infection (i.e. the lungs, brain, kidneys).



Culled from Staywellworld blog post dated March 14, 2017.

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