Monday, April 15, 2024

How is TB spread?

Tuberculosis (TB) is primarily spread through the air when an infected person with active TB disease coughs, sneezes, or speaks, releasing infectious respiratory droplets that can be inhaled by others. The transmission of TB occurs when a person inhales these droplets containing the TB bacteria, known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

TB is considered an airborne disease, and the transmission of TB bacteria usually requires prolonged close contact with an infectious individual in an enclosed space. Factors that can increase the risk of TB transmission include:

  1. Proximity: Being in close proximity to an infectious individual for an extended period, such as living in the same household or sharing a confined space for several hours.

  2. Ventilation: Poor ventilation in indoor settings can increase the concentration of infectious droplets in the air, facilitating TB transmission.

  3. Immune status: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those living with HIV/AIDS or other immunocompromising conditions, are at increased risk of developing TB disease if exposed to TB bacteria.

It's important to note that not everyone exposed to TB bacteria becomes infected or develops TB disease. In many cases, the immune system is able to control the infection and prevent disease from developing. People with latent TB infection, where TB bacteria are present in the body but are inactive and do not cause symptoms, are not contagious and cannot spread the bacteria to others.

Prompt identification and treatment of individuals with active TB disease are essential for preventing further transmission of TB. TB can also be transmitted through other routes, although less commonly, such as:

  • Rarely: Ingestion of unpasteurized dairy products contaminated with TB bacteria.
  • Rarely: Direct contact with open TB sores or lesions on the skin or mucous membranes, particularly in cases of extrapulmonary TB.

However, the vast majority of TB cases are transmitted through the inhalation of infectious respiratory droplets from an individual with active pulmonary TB disease. Effective infection control measures, such as proper ventilation, use of respiratory protection, and prompt diagnosis and treatment of TB cases, are important for preventing TB transmission in healthcare settings and communities.


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