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Taipei City Hospital

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What happens when you are in contact with people who have tuberculosis (TB)s

       TB is mainly passed on by air and aerosol droplets. When people are in the same environment breathing the same air, it is very likely for them to be affected with latent infection. A person in contact is defined as people living under the same roof as those who are diagnosed with TB or in contact with TB patients for more than 8 hours in one day, or accumulatively more than (and including) 40 hours.

       Dr. Ming-An Lee of the Pulmonary Medicine Department of Taipei City Hospital Zhongxing Branch indicated that a person who is in contact only has a 1/3 chance of being infected with TB. However, infection does “not” equal disease onset. The general public infected by TB may only have an approximately 5-10% of chance of disease onset. Even if you are infected with TB, you should not be worried, as regularly taking the required medicine for 2 weeks shall significantly reduce the infectious potential. Continuing to take medicine according to the prescription for at least 6-9 months can cure TB completely.

       Dr. Ming-An Lee mentioned, when a person who has been in contact with TB receives a “referral form for people in contact with TB” from the health unit, the hospital will arrange for a chest X-ray to be done. If the X-ray is abnormal, the doctor will perform sputum analysis or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to exclude the possibility of walking TB. Once a person who has been in contact with TB has 2 years follow up with no disease onset, the likelihood of further onset is reduced. However, if any of flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough for more than 2 weeks, poor appetite, weight loss, unknown lethargy, bloody sputum, fever past noon and others during the follow up, TB should be suspected to be the cause. During this time, masks shall be worn at all time and medical attention should be sought.

       TB is a preventable and curable disease. Early diagnosis allows early treatment to be carried out, as well as preventing future complications and decreasing the chances of passing TB to other members of the family. Balanced nutrition and regular exercise will be able to boost the body’s immune defense against TB, which one of the essential elements of TB prevention.