Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne infectious disease that requires long and complex treatment with several
antibiotics. People can live with TB infection for years—even decades—without symptoms before
developing active TB disease. Millions of Americans are living with TB infection: one in 24 people in
the U.S.Recognizing people’s right to know their TB status, this paper calls for a more robust national
response focusing on diagnosing and treating TB infection in order to prevent future cases of TB and to
stop its transmission.
According to the CDC, an estimated 11 million people roughly 1 in 24 people in the U.S. today are living with TB infection.
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Who is most at risk?
WHAT IS TUBERCULOSIS
Tuberculosis (also known as “TB,” “TB disease” or “active TB”) is an airborne, contagious disease caused by a bacterial
infection. Without proper treatment,up to two-thirds of people with TB disease will die. A person with TB disease has
symptoms that can include intense coughing, significant weight loss, fatigue, fever, and night sweats. People with
advanced stages of the disease can cough up blood and small pieces of lung tissue. When a person with TB disease
coughs, the TB bacteria exit the body through the mouth and are expelled into the air. The bacteria can survive
suspended in the air for hours, during which time people breathing that air can inhale them and acquire TB infection.
Because TB disease is a contagious airborne illness of public health concern, all states require suspected and diagnosed
cases of TB disease to be reported to state health departments. These reports are forwarded without identifiers to the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).