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What Can I Expect After a Tuberculosis Diagnosis?

A person with latent tuberculosis may be prescribed a nine-month treatment of isoniazid.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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After tuberculosis diagnosis, a person will most likely need treatment. If he has been diagnosed but does not have symptoms, his treatment may be preventative in nature. If, on the other hand, his case is active, he will typically be treated with drugs that kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. In some cases, a person may also be hospitalized to keep him from spreading the bacteria to others.

Following an active tuberculosis diagnosis, most doctors will recommend treatment. Tuberculosis is often treated with a regimen of drugs capable of killing the bacteria. For example, active cases are often treated with the following drugs: pyrazinamide, isoniazid, ethambutol, and rifampin. Sometimes, however, other drugs are recommended for cases in which the patient is resistant to one or more of the drugs typically used for treating tuberculosis.

If a person has been infected with tuberculosis but does not have an active case of the disease, a doctor may suggest preventative treatment. This type of treatment works to kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis and prevent the active form of the disease from developing. For example, a doctor may recommend nine months of treatment with a drug called isoniazid to prevent an active tuberculosis infection.

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Exposure to tuberculosis doesn’t necessarily mean a person will have an active case of tuberculosis. Often, the body isolates the infected cells and keeps the bacteria that cause it at bay. In some cases, the body may keep these cells isolated for years at a time. In fact, the body can sometimes fight the bacteria off and heal on its own. Those with weakened immune systems because of human immunodeficiency virus or other diseases may be more likely to develop an active case of tuberculosis. Even malnutrition and normal aging can put a person at increased risk.

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease. It can be transmitted from person to person, even without any physical contact. The bacteria that cause the disease are sent into the air in tiny droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People may then inhale these droplets and become infected.

Since tuberculosis is contagious, some people may need to be hospitalized and isolated after tuberculosis diagnosis. Such hospitalization allows the patient to be treated and monitored while also protecting the general public from exposure. After about two weeks of treatment, a person usually isn’t contagious anymore and can be released from the hospital. In some places, a person can be forced into a hospital or other type of care environment if he refuses treatment after tuberculosis diagnosis.

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