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Tuberculosis (TB) is a reportable disease in Oklahoma.  TB is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which usually affects the lungs. However, other parts of the body can be affected. When someone with TB disease of the lung coughs, sneezes, laughs, or sings, TB bacteria get into the air. People who share the same air space with this person may breathe in the bacteria.

TB symptoms may include feeling weak or sick, weight loss, fever and night sweats.  Persons with TB of the lung may have complaints of cough, chest pain, and/or coughing up blood.  Other symptoms depend on the particular part of the body that is affected.

Anyone can get TB. People at greater risk include: family members, friends, and coworkers who share the same air space with the person who has TB disease of the lungs.  Others at risk include the elderly, homeless, prisoners, nursing home residents, alcoholics, injection drug users, people with medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS), certain types of cancer, and people who are chronically malnourished.

People with TB infection (without disease) have TB bacteria in their body but are not sick because the bacteria are not active.  They cannot spread the bacteria to others.  However, these people may develop TB disease in the future, if the TB bacteria become active. People with TB disease usually have one or more of the symptoms of TB and are sick because the TB bacteria are active and multiplying in their body. People with TB disease in their lungs can spread TB bacteria to others.

A TB skin test is given to detect TB infection. If the skin test is positive, a chest x-ray and other exams will be done to make sure you do not have TB disease.  You can get free TB tests at many of your local health departments or you may go to your private doctor.

TB drugs (antibiotics) are recommended for persons with TB disease.  Some persons with TB infection may need to take the drugs to prevent TB disease. These drugs are usually taken for 4 to 12 months.  The most important factor is for the patient with TB disease to take his/her TB drugs as prescribed by the doctor and to cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.  Drug resistant TB can develop when TB patients do not take their TB medication as prescribed by the doctor.  It makes TB more difficult to treat. When resistance occurs, one or more of the TB drugs can no longer kill the TB bacteria.

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History of TB:

American Lung Association Bulletin March 1982: 100 years since Robert Koch discovers TB Bacillus - Reprinted with permission © 2009 American Lung Association. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or log on to


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