Tuberculosis was once a common disease in the early and middle twentieth century. It has decreased in frequency, but has recently made a come-back, especially in the middle adult years. In Fresno county the disease has made a rebound too, because of the influx of immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America.
Tuberculosis is spread by inhaling infected droplets. The infected person coughs and sneezes, spreading the infection. Adults who have the disease need to cough large amounts of the infected droplets to spread the disease to a child.
Children 3 to 15 years are likely to develop primary tuberculosis, if infected. This form of Tuberculosis is usually asymptomatic. There is no fever, cough, fatigue, or other symptoms. It is picked-up or diagnosed by the simple skin test that we do in the office. X-rays are often negative. Tests to cultures or examine the bacteria are difficult to obtain, because sputum is necessary to culture. Most small kids swallow their sputum so testing them is difficult.
Because tuberculosis requires large amounts of infected particles to be coughed up and spread, it is very unusual to contract TB from a casual exposure. It is also unusual for a child to spread it to another child. The classic exposure is from an older adult with long established disease to another person after prolonged exposure.
Treatment is by drug therapy. Up to a year of drug therapy is necessary to eliminate the infection.