Tuberculosis is in infectious disease which is caused by bacteria. It is commonly known as TB. People who suffer from tuberculosis generally cough a lot. They feel pain in their chest. They also feel very tired. Throughout history, many people have died of tuberculosis. The oldest signs of tuberculosis that have been found are in the spines of Egyptian mummies that date to 2400 BC. Nowadays the diseases can be treated with anti-biotic drugs. However, many people still die from this disease every year, particularly in countries where there is a shortage of food.
How it is spread.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria called "Mycobacterium tuberculosis". Its symptoms include a long-lasting bad cough, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or "sputum" (gooey saliva)., weakness and tiredness, weight loss, being not hungry, chills, fever, and sweating at night.
TB is contagious, which means it can be spread from person to person. The disease is carried on the tiny droplets of water that come out of a persons lungs when they breathe. If the person who has TB coughs, sneezes or spits without covering their mouth, they spread the bacteria more widely. People become infected by breathing in the droplets spread by an infected person. If a person lives with someone who has TB, there is a 22% chance that they will also be infected with the disease.
Many people have TB in their system but do not know it because it is not making them sick. This is called "latent" Tuberculosis. If a person becomes infected with TB, there is a 90% chance that it will be a latent TB infection, meaning that they will not become sick or infect other people. However, there is a 10% chance that the latent TB infection will turn into Active Tuberculosis Disease at some time in the person's life. People who have a latent TB infection can not spread the disease to other people. The disease only becomes infectious when the person becomes sick.
The most common type of Tuberculosis is an infection of the lungs. This is called Pulmonary Tuberculosis. This type affects 75% of TB patients. There is another form called Miliary Tuberculosis that causes lesions (infections or scars) on the lungs that are shaped like little seeds of millet (a type of grain). This type of infection spreads to the heart and then to other organs such as the liver and brain. This most commonly affects people with conditions such as HIV, as well as small children. Tuberculosis can also affect the bones and the skin, and other organs.
A world-wide problem.
During the 20th century, in developed countries, doctors had very good success is controlling this disease. But the disease continues to spread in countries where there are many poor people without enough food. In 2004, the World Health Organisation said there were 14.6 million people sick with the disease, there were 8.9 million new cases, and 1.6 million deaths.
In developed countries there is now a larger number of people sick with tuberculosis because of HIV/AIDS, substance and taking "immunosuppressive" drugs to treat some other illness. (Immuno-suppressant means something that stops the person's system from fighting disease.)
Another big problem is that there are now new "strains" of tuberculosis that are resistant to the usual drugs that doctors use to treat it. About 20% of new cases are resistant to drugs. In 1993, the World Health Organization declared that Tuberculosis was a global health emergency.

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