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Tuberculosis making a comeback Tuberculosis making a comeback
As medical science and care as well as living conditions improved the incidence of TB decreased significantly and by the 1960's the mortality... Tuberculosis making a comeback

by Kimberley Allen R.N.

Tuberculosis more commonly referred to as TB is a bacterial infection that occurs primarily in the lungs, but can spread through out the bloodstream and lymph nodes to any organ in our body. In the 19th century TB was one of the most dreaded diseases known.  In the 1920’s it was the eight leading cause of death in youg children.
As medical science and care as well as living conditions  improved the incidence of TB decreased significantly and by the 1960’s the mortality rate in children had significantly declined and it was nearly erradicated in the US.  However, in recent years TB has been making a come back everywhere including the US.  Currently one third of the population of the entire world is infected with TB and new cases of TB are being diagnosed approximately one per second.  In 2010 it was estimated that 1.5 million deaths were caused by TB.  The increased homelessness and increased prison populations as well as those suffering with HIV have contributed significantly to the resurgence.  Other reasons include new strains of the bacteria that causes TB known as XDR-TB (extremely drug resistant TB) and a multi drug resistant (MDR-TB) type as well.  There is also now a totally resistant TB that was first seen in 2003, however it ws not widely reported until this year.  This type is resistant to all currently used medications.  The increase in immune system disorders like HIV and diabetes as well as alcohol and IV drug use have also contributed to not only the increased incidence of TB but also the mutation of the bacteria to more drug resistant strains.
TB is transmittied person to person similar to a cold through breathing air that contains the infected droplets that have been
released into the air in the form of a cough or sneeze by an infected person.  It can take weeks even years for a person to
becomesymptomatic after exposure.  A person can have the bacteria that causes TB lying dormant in their body for years.  Healthcare workers are required to have a TB test annually because the potential for exposure increase their risk  for becoming infected with TB and even if it is asymptomatic or dormant it can be treated with the antibiotic isoniazid which will prevent the infection from becoming active. The most frequently experienced symptoms of TB are chronic fatigue, fever, a chronic dry cough, night sweats, and weight loss.  There are several tests that are used today to diagnose TB.  The skin test or mantou is the most frequently used test, if you have a positive skin test the Dr will order a chest xray and sputum analysis.  Once the diagnosis is confirmed through these tests the Dr will order a PCR test to determine the genetic makeup of the bacteria and determine if it is caused by one of the mutated strains.  The non-mutated or traditional straian of bacteria that causesTB can be successfully treated with the isoniazid combined with one or more other medications including streptomycin, rifadin, myambutol or pyranzinamide. The drug resistant strains of TB are serious public health problem that remains unsolved.

Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at