Tuberculosis: 17 Questions and Answers
Confused About Tuberculosis Headlines? Get the Facts
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What is "smear-negative" TB? continued...
In contrast, smear-positive TB
patients "have so much TB in their lungs that when the laboratory looks
directly into the microscope, they can see the bacteria right there. Those
people tend to be a lot more infectious or contagious to others than someone
who really has disease but doesn't yet have enough built up that they're really
coughing out a whole lot at a time."
When TB bacteria keep growing,
eventually "you can see it under a microscope, and that's associated with
easily infecting other people," Hamilton says.
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
"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
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
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
"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."