Tuberculosis Vaccine: What Is the BCG vaccine?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that typically targets the lungs. TB can also infect other areas of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, or brain.
TB is spread from the lungs of a person with TB through coughing. When a person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria travel into the air and may be inhaled by a person standing nearby. TB is most commonly spread through repeated contact, such as within a family. Short-term exposure can also cause TB.
At one point, TB was the leading cause of death in the United States. As treatments were developed, TB rates began to drop. Today, there are far fewer cases, but the disease is still present.
TB is still a major health problem throughout the world, particularly in Africa. People with HIV infection also have a higher risk of getting TB.
Symptoms depend on where the bacteria have settled and grown in the body. The lungs are often infected. Symptoms of TB infection in the lungs include:
- A cough that lasts three weeks or longer
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood or phlegm
- Loss of appetite
- Fever and chills
- Night sweats
TB can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal.
Last reviewedDecember 2014by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.