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Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that has been afflicting humans since antiquity.  There have been many archaeologists that have found Tuberculosis lesions on the bones of ancient skeletons. Today there are more than 8 million new cases of TB each year with more than 3 million deaths worldwide. In the United States, it is estimated that 15 million people are infected with this disease. It is an illness that is spread through the air by suspended droplets produced when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. Most of the time this disease affects the lungs (called pulmonary TB); however, it can affect other organs of the body (called nonpulmonary TB). The general symptoms of a person infected with pulmonary TB are coughing, fever, weight loss, night sweats, chest pains and coughing up blood.  It is of note that patients that have HIV and TB have a higher rate of nonpulmonary TB. It is possible for anybody to be infected with TB; however, there are certain people that are more at risk.  These include poor people, homeless people, people who live with someone infected with TB, people from other countries with a prevalence of TB, people who live in nursing homes, drug users, prison inmates, people who have certain medical conditions, and especially people with compromised immune systems (such as HIV/AIDS sufferers).  Of those who are infected with the disease and are not receiving preventative treatment, about 10% will procure the active disease. The easiest way for a person to be tested for TB is for them to get a tuberculin skin test (TST). If the test is found to be positive the next step is usually for the suspected infected individual to receive a chest radiograph. In this X-Ray the doctors will be looking for nodules in the lungs.