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Tuberculosis - the fundamentals

9 July 2009, 17:06

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Tuberculosis is a contagious disease. Like the common cold, it spreads through the air. Only people who are sick with TB in their lungs are infectious. When infectious people cough, sneeze, talk or spit, they propel TB germs, known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacilli, into the air. A person needs only to inhale a small number of these to be infected.

Left untreated, each person with active TB disease will infect on average between 10 and 15 people every year. But people infected with TB bacilli will not necessarily become sick with the disease. The immune system “walls off” the TB bacilli which, protected by a thick waxy coat, can lie dormant for years. When someone’s immune system is weakened, the chances of becoming sick are greater.

*Someone in the world is newly infected with TB bacilli every second.

*Overall, one-third of the world’s population is currently infected with the TB bacillus.

*Only 5-10% of people who are infected with TB bacilli (but who are not infected with HIV) become sick or infectious at some time during their life.

*People infected with HIV and TB are much more likely to develop TB disease.

Source – WHO

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