Tuberculosis ("TB") is a wasting disease of the lungs
caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In earlier
times it was known as consumption.
with an active case of the disease spray the bacterium into the air in
tiny water droplets that can then be inhaled by others. Once in the lung,
the body responds by confining the bacterium in granules, called tubercles.
The person is infected, but shows no symptoms.
the body's immune system grows weaker (as a result of another infection,
stress, exertion, etc.) the bacterium can break out of the tubercles and
body now responds by killing bacteria and surrounding cells. Symptoms
now appear: fever, night sweats, lack of appetite, followed by chest pain
and a productive cough. In time, the sputum turns bloody.
is very widespread; it is estimated that about a third of the world's
population is infected with it. Eight million people get active TB every
year, and two million die from TB-related illness. It is probably the
second-largest single cause of human death today.
line for the deep sea sailor: To prevent TB, make sure your boat (and
the places you stay when ashore) has adequate ventilation. If you detect
signs of infection, seek medical help immediately.