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Tuberculosis: 17 Questions and Answers

Confused About Tuberculosis Headlines? Get the Facts

Speaker has said he felt fine and had been exercising with no obvious symptoms. How is that possible? Is that because he was in the early stages?

"That's definitely how that's possible," says Hamilton.

She recalls the case of a surgeon who operated on a patient who was later found to have TB and who was also exposed to TB while working in Africa.

"He had TB," Hamilton says. "In talking with him, he said, 'Well, when I do my five-mile runs, I might have noticed I was slightly more out of breath than usual.' In other words, [he was] healthy, working, running, totally fine," Hamilton says.

"I feel quite certain that as time went on, he would have become ill. He just wasn't quite there yet," she says. "It goes to show that this disease can kind of sneak up on people."

Do most TB patients have symptoms, and what are tuberculosis symptoms?

"That's what we think, that most people eventually have some kind of symptom," says Hamilton.

When people get sick with tuberculosis, their symptoms may include fever, night sweats, cough, appetite loss, weight loss, bloody phlegm, and loss of energy.

Can anyone catch TB?

"Yes, if they are in close association with someone who has tuberculosis," says Hamilton.

"That means not just walking past them in Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta," she adds.

"Usually it's sharing an office with them, living in the same household with them, being in a homeless shelter with them and sleeping in a bed next to them -- [spending] time with that person."

"Tuberculosis is around," Hamilton says. "Does that mean people should be nervous about going to the mall? No. It's not horribly common. Now, if people travel to countries where there's still a lot of TB, then your risk is increased."

How did Speaker get infected with TB?

That's not yet known.

Speaker's father-in-law is a tuberculosis expert at the CDC. Could Speaker have gotten TB from his father-in-law?

Speaker's father-in-law is Robert Cooksey, a research microbiologist in the CDC's division of tuberculosis elimination.

In a statement issued on May 31, Cooksey says he has never had TB and that his son-in-law's TB didn't come from him or CDC labs.

What tests determine whether a person has TB? Are those tests safe if you are pregnant or are trying to conceive?

"The tests are safe whether you're pregnant or are trying to [conceive]," says Hamilton.

"The most common test is called the tuberculin skin test, or PPD. That's where a tiny, killed piece of TB is put right under the skin and you see if your body reacts to it or not. There's a newer blood test called QuantiFERON that tells us about the same information. That test not available all over the place," Hamilton says.

Since tuberculosis grows slowly, people get a follow-up test about two to three months after their initial test.

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