Active TB Disease
TB bacteria become active if the immune system can't stop them from growing. The active bacteria begin to multiply in the body and cause TB disease. The bacteria attack the body and destroy tissue. If this occurs in the lungs, the bacteria can actually create a hole in the lung. Some people develop active TB disease soon after becoming infected, before their immune system can fight the TB bacteria. Other people may get sick later, when their immune system becomes weak for another reason.
If you have active TB disease, you will need to take several different medicines for at least a year. This is because there are many bacteria to be killed. Taking several medicines (antibiotics) helps kill the bacteria and prevents it from becoming resistant to the medicines usually used to treat the disease.
If you have active TB disease of the lungs or throat, you are probably infectious. You need to stay home from work or school so that you don't spread TB bacteria to other people. After taking your medicine for a few weeks, you will feel better and you may no longer be contagious to others. Your doctor or nurse will tell you when you can return to work or school or visit with friends.
Latent TB Infection
Most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, will be able to fight the bacteria to stop it from growing. In these people, the bacteria become inactive, but lives in the body and can become active later, especially in persons who have certain health conditions. This infection is called latent TB infection.
If you have latent TB infection (a significant TB skin test reaction) you may need to take medicine to keep from developing active TB disease. This is called treatment for latent TB infection. The TB Program and your doctor will help you decide if treatment is important. The treatment is usually 9 months of an antibiotic medication.
More specific information about Tuberculosis, testing and treatment can be found on the CDC website.
Directly Observed Therapy
Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) is the standard of care in Cortland County for treatment of all persons with TB disease. DOT means that a health care worker meets with the person who is sick with TB disease and watches that person take every dose of their TB medication. This is important to assure the pills are taken everyday as the doctor orders because it helps prevent resistant strains of TB from developing which are much more difficult to treat. Primarily, it also helps assure the person is cured of TB disease.
The meetings take place at a location and time both persons agree on. This can be the TB clinic, your home or work, or any other convenient location. You will take your medicine at this place while the health care worker watches.