Why do we screen for TB and what is TB?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient disease that is believed by historians to have been around since the time of the pharaohs. Although it is a disease that has been controlled for several decades, it is still presently seen in the United States. According to the latest CDC data available, there were 9,557 TB cases in 2015, with New York State having the third highest number of TB cases.

Pediatric tuberculosis is defined by the disease being present in someone who is 15 years old or younger. Deadly forms of TB are also more likely to develop in children under the age of five.

Tuberculosis Symptoms in Children

TB most commonly occurs in the lungs, but is also known to affect other areas of the body as well. Since children’s immune systems aren’t fully developed, they are more likely to develop more severe forms of tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis symptoms commonly seen in children include:

  • A heavy and frequent cough
  • Fever
  • Sweating – especially at night
  • Muscle and joint weakness
  • Weight loss

How is Tuberculosis Spread?

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria that is spread from person to person through the air. Typically this bacteria becomes present in the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Anyone who is nearby and breathes in the bacteria can become sick with tuberculosis, but it is important to note that not everyone who is infected becomes sick. This means that there are two types of TB infections.

Latent TB Infection

A person with a latent TB infection:

  • Will not exhibit symptoms
  • Will test positive for tuberculosis with a skin or blood test
  • Has inactive TB bacteria in the body
  • Can’t spread the bacteria to others

TB Disease

A person who has tuberculosis:

  • Will test positive for tuberculosis with a skin or blood test
  • Will be sick and exhibit symptoms
  • Has active and multiplying TB bacteria
  • Can transmit the disease to others

Testing & Treatment of Tuberculosis in Children

TB is more common in countries other than the United States, however, there are risk factors for being exposed to TB in the United States. At check ups we screen for these risk factors and will recommend getting the TB test if there are risk factors.

Unless a child is showing symptoms, the only sign of TB is a positive tuberculosis skin or blood test. Especially for younger children, a skin test is preferred over a blood test.

Most children with tuberculosis can be treated at a doctor’s office and cared for at home, as the types of TB children contract are typically less infectious than forms seen in adults. Medication will be prescribed and must be taken exactly as directed.

A doctor may recommend hospitalization if the child is an infant, they have a reaction to medication, or there are other diseases present.

Elmwood Pediatrics provides Tuberculosis testing and treatment, with two convenient offices in Rochester and Pittsford. Contact your pediatrician today if you think your child is at risk.






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