Everything You Need to Know About the Tuberculosis Vaccine
A guide to the vaccines travelers may need to have.
The Tuberculosis Infection
Tuberculosis was once a bitterly feared disease across Europe and America where, in the 1800s, it claimed millions of lives (1 out of every 7 people, according to some sources).
Also known as the consumption, phthisis, or the White Plague, TB most commonly affects the lungs, where bacteria — which spread through the air, from one person to another — wreak havoc on the organs’ inner tissue. The well-known symptoms associated with TB, as a result, are fever, chills, night sweats, loss of appetite, fatigue, and coughing up blood.
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How Tuberculosis Is Contracted
Rather unsettling, the airborne bacteria that carry TB can be spread in numerous ways. All an infected person has to do is speak, laugh, sneeze, or even sing in an enclosed space, and microscopic droplets can be released into the air, causing potential harm to anyone close.
Today, it’s rare for someone to die of TB. In fact, many of us actually harbor the bacteria in our bodies, but our immune systems make sure it stays inactive. Without proper treatment, however, the disease can be fatal. (People with HIV have a higher chance of an infection morphing into a disease, due to a weakened immune system; those with diabetes, kidney disease, and certain cancers are also at risk.)
For travelers, TB is not usually a concern. TB is found throughout the world, though most cases today are concentrated around sub-Saharan Africa and parts of southeast Asia. All in all, it claims roughly 1.5 million lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To know whether or not you have TB, you’ll need to get tested by a doctor. The good news is, even if you catch an infection while traveling, the chances of it developing into full-blown Tuberculosis are very, very small.
The Tuberculosis Vaccine
A vaccine known as bacillus Calmette-Guérin is used on newborn infants in developing countries where there’s a higher risk of children contracting TB. However, since the vaccine does not guarantee 100 percent prevention against TB, and because it interferes with TB skin test results, it is not generally used in the United States. (However, the US follows strict measures to control the spread of TB in every state.)
hose who test positive for a tuberculosis infection are treated for 9 months with a drug called isoniazid, along with other antibiotics that stop the onset of TB disease.