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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 10/29/99
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Tuberculosis Still a Threat in US

Cincinnati—Tuberculosis (TB), a disease once believed to have been nearly eradicated in the United States, is making a comeback. TB is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually attacks the lungs and is spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. TB began disappearing in the US in the 1940s after scientists discovered drugs to treat the disease. However, TB cases began to increase in the early 80s, and by 1993 more than 25,000 cases were reported in the US.

Many people who have TB infection never develop the disease. Such individuals may not feel sick, have no symptoms, and cannot spread the disease. However, they may develop the disease at some time in the future. Babies, young children, people infected with HIV, people who inject drugs, and individuals who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system are at a high risk of developing TB disease once they are infected. If you are in one of these high-risk groups or are younger than 35 and have TB infection, you may need to take medicine to reduce your risk of developing TB disease.

According to Stuart Green, MD, assistant professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, "A serious public health problem emerges when people don't adhere to the drug regiment used to treat TB because they risk developing multidrug-resistant TB. Therefore, it is important to find out if you have TB and properly take all your medication."

A TB skin test is the standard way to find out if you have the infection. You should be tested for TB if you have spent time with a person with infectious TB, have HIV, or have been to a region where TB disease is common, like Latin America. People who have TB infection but are not yet sick can take medicine so that they may never develop the disease. People with TB disease can be treated and often cured if they seek medical help.



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