LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined tuberculosis as an infectious, airborne disease spread from person to person.
The World Health Organization names it the second leading infectious killer worldwide, after COVID.
While we’re finding out more about the possible outbreak at CCSD campuses, UMC’s Medical Director of Infectious Disease, Dr. Shadaba Asad provided background on transmission and treatment.
“Typically, you would have to be within six feet of somebody who is coughing or talking a lot to contract TB, and even then, it would have to be contact for a while it can’t be just passing by,” she said.
Dr. Asad said one of four things can happen at exposure: Either someone contracts the infection and gets sick, which would be an active TB case.
Secondly, there could be no infection at all. Additionally, an inactive, latent case where the bacteria enters but nothing happens is possible. Lastly, a latent case may become a reactivated case later.
She said it can take four weeks for symptoms to start. TB cases are reported to the Department of Health which does contract tracing and will contact those at risk of exposure. Dr. Asad said people can reach out to the Southern Nevada health district directly or to their provider to discuss exposure and treatment.
Dr. Asad explained children, especially those under the age of five, are more likely to develop a severe case.
“Tuberculosis involving the lung. This is your typical patient with a longstanding cough, fever, and night sweats, and weight loss,” Dr. Asad said. “If you are highly immunocompromised, or very young, it can spread to other parts of your body.
That’s called disseminated tuberculosis. Another severe case is “CNS” TB involving the brain or spinal cord. Meningitis TB is an example.
A blood test or skin test can be used to detect exposure. Phlegm is collected for active TB testing, and the specimen is stained and incubated for 8 weeks. Dr. Asad said treatment can be antibiotics for four months for latent, or inactive, TB.
“TB of any kind, active, requires six months treatment with at least four antibiotics no matter how mild,” Dr. Asad said.
She added that severe cases may call for small amounts of steroids.