What is the Difference between Active and Latent TB?
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium Tuberculosis that affects the lungs. The disease is spread from an infected person to an uninfected person through the air when the person with lung TB coughs, sneezes or spits.
TB can either be Active or Latent, here are the differences between the two.
In Active TB, the TB germs reproduce and spread in the body causing tissue damage while in Latent TB the germs are dormant, and this situation can even last for years.
A person with Active TB feels sick experiencing symptoms such as fever and night sweats which can last more than 3 weeks. In Latent TB, on the other hand, the infected person does not feel sick.
For Active TB, if the germs are in the lungs or voice box, they may be spread from the infected person to an uninfected person through coughing or sneezing. However, Latent TB cannot be spread from the infected person to other people.
A chest x-ray can be used to diagnose Active TB, but it does not work for Latent TB because it usually shows normal results even if a person is infected. The decision to treat Latent TB is based on an individual’s risk factors such as a recent infection with TB bacteria and having a weakened immune system.
Active TB is treated by taking 3 or 4 medications for at least 20 months while Latent TB is treated using one drug which is taken for 9 months.
How can you prevent yourself or your loved ones from developing TB?
- Infants are often vaccinated with bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) to prevent severe TB in children.
- Avoid prolonged time with TB patients in crowded enclosed environments like hospitals and clinics.
- Take all your medicine as prescribed and ensure you complete your entire dose.
- Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and dispose of it properly by covering it in a plastic bag.
- Ensure you go to all your doctor appointments.
- Ensure your house is well ventilated.
- Don’t use public transportation if you are infected, to prevent spreading the TB germs to other people.