Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by germs called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is a serious disease that can lead to death if it is not treated. Many people in the world have tuberculosis, including people in Chelan and Douglas counties.
TB germs spread through the air from one person to another. When a person that is sick with TB disease in their lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, spits, sings or talks, the TB germs are spread into the air. People who have close contact with that infected person may breathe in the TB germs and become infected.
Once TB germs are breathed in, they usually stay in the lungs. They may move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the throat, lymph nodes, brain, kidneys, and bones.
When someone has been “exposed” to TB germs through close contact with an infected person, they are at risk of developing one of three types of TB: latent TB infection, TB disease, or drug-resistant TB.
CDC: General Information About TB (pdf)
Latent TB Infection is a condition in which TB germs live in a person’s body, but the germs are not growing or spreading. The germs are kept inactive by the body’s immune system. A person with latent TB infection has been exposed to someone, either recently or in their past, who had TB disease.
A person with latent TB infection is not sick and is not spreading germs to other people. The germs can stay inactive in the person’s body for many years, maybe their whole life.
Is latent TB dangerous?
The danger of latent TB infection is that inactive TB germs can become active. When TB germs become active, the person becomes sick and can spread the disease to other people.
Who is at risk for latent tuberculosis infection?
- People from countries with high rates of tuberculosis
- People who have had close contact with a person with TB disease.
- People with weak immune systems that cannot fight off infection (people with AIDS/HIV infection, diabetes, solid organ transplant, kidney failure, and young children)