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
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."
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