In Chicago, public health officials are offering tuberculosis testing to hundreds of people who may have been exposed by a doctor unaware she had the disease.
The good news, according to officials, is that preliminary testing shows the doctor has a form of TB that can be treated with antibiotics. Thus far, no one else has tested positive and the doctor is home recuperating after spending a few days in the hospital.
Ironically, the news out of Chicago came just a few weeks after the Centers for Disease Control, announced TB at its lowest rate since the government started keeping records in the early 1950s. In 2008, there were 12,898 new cases. That's down about 400 cases from 2007. So what are the facts about TB? Here are some answers.
1. How do you get TB? When someone with active TB coughs, speaks or even sings, TB bacteria can be released into the air. It can stay in the air for hours. If someone else breathes in the bacteria, it's called "TB exposure." After being exposed, people can get latent TB or active TB. Latent TB isn't contagious, while active TB is. Click here for more information.
2. What are the symptoms? If you have latent TB, you won't have any symptoms and you are not contagious. (Though you could develop active TB in the future.) If you have active TB, signs and symptoms include:
- Coughing that lasts three or more weeks
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
3. How is it treated? If you have active TB disease, several different antibiotics will be prescribed to you. Click here for a list. Doctors say it will take at least six months to kill all the bacteria. Sometimes TB can be drug resistant. According to the CDC, treatment of drug-resistant TB requires taking a "cocktail" of at least four drugs, for 18 months to two years or longer. Even with treatment, many people with these types of TB may not survive. If treatment is successful, you may need surgery to remove areas of persistent infection or repair lung damage.
Posted by: CNN Senior Producer, Jennifer Pifer-Bixler
Filed under: Health Jennifer Pifer-Bixler