Tuberculosis – Are you at risk, and should you be screened?

What exactly is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection which is from the bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is passed from person to person through droplets in the air, just like the common cold or the flu. The presentation usually looks like pneumonia, causing fever, coughing, chest pain and weight loss.

Who should be screened?

Screening is recommended for anybody that has an increased risk. This includes health workers, people who have immigrated from places where the disease is more common (Russia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean), contact among drug users or homeless people, or personally having contact with someone who you know is infected with Tuberculosis. It’s important to note, that according to the CDC these screening recommendations are only relevant if there is a feasible treatment option. If you for any reason have a weaker immune system, you should also mention to your physician to check for Tuberculosis if you catch an infection that looks like pneumonia.

How strong is the evidence to back this up?

There is no great study proving the benefits of screening vs. not screening. What we do know is that there are no major disadvantages to screening individuals at higher risk, and we have appropriate treatment options which are beneficial. It would not be ethical to determine that a certain population is not allowed to be screened for the sake of research, so at this point do not expect to see evidence of this.

Why is it important to be screened, if I’m sick won’t I just know it?

What’s very important to understand about Tuberculosis are the 2 forms of the disease. The first form is called latent TB, meaning that your body is infected though your immune system managed to contain it for the time being. There is great evidence to support the appropriate treatment against TB at this stage. Proper treatment drastically lowers chances of re-activation, along with mortality rate. If you are infected while the disease is at the latent stage you are not contagious.

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*Please comment to us if you found this information useful, or if you have any questions about the topic.

Knowledge is power. It’s very important for each of us to understand what our options are, and what evidence supports each option. Preventing diseases before they start is often the most efficient way to be healthy, and this starts by screening for the diseases that are appropriate for us depending on age, gender, and other factors. Download our app to go through a short list of questions, and receive a personalized list of the appropriate screening recommendations for you. More information about each of these tests is provided through the app, so that you can stay informed and educated.

 
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Here are a few studies and references which prove the efficacy of screening and early treatment for tuberculosis. Feel free to contact us for more information about the matter, we would be happy to provide it for you.

Salinas JL, Mindra G, Haddad MB, Pratt R, Price SF, Langer AJ. Leveling of tuberculosis incidence—United States, 2013-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(11):273-8.

Getahun H, Matteelli A, Chaisson RE, Raviglione M. Latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(22):2127-35.

Kahwati LC, Feltner C, Halpern M, et al. Screening for latent tuberculosis infection in adults: an evidence review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.10357.

Kahwati LC, Feltner C, Halpern M, et al. Screening for Latent Tuberculosis Infection in Adults: An Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Evidence Synthesis No. 142. AHRQ Publication No. 14-05212-EF-1. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2016.

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