Description: TB is a disease that usually attacks and lays waste to the lungs, but it can spread to other areas of the body, particularly the brain, the kidneys, and the bones.
Symptoms: TB of the lungs can cause coughing, loss of weight and appetite, severe sweating at night, weakness, shortness of breath, and chest pains.
How diagnosed: A tuberculin skin test can show if a person has been in contact with the bacillus. A chest X ray can reveal damage to the lungs, which may indicate an active TB infection. A laboratory examination of the patient's sputum is the most reliable way to detect TB bacilli.
Who should be tested: Those who either have TB symptoms or have had close, repeated exposure to a TB patient-particularly in poorly ventilated rooms.
Vaccination: There is only one vaccine-known as BCG. It prevents severe TB in children but does little for adolescents and adults. At best, the vaccination gives protection for about 15 years. BCG only protects those who are uninfected; it does not benefit people who are already infected.