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Medical Overview - Tuberculosis

            Tuberculosis is one of the most prevalent infections of human beings and contributes considerably to illness and death around the world. Globally, it is estimated that approximately one-third of the global population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and that seven to eight million new cases of tuberculosis occur each year ( The Journal of the American Medical Association, [JAMA], 1999). Annual tuberculosis mortality is between two and three million people, making this disease the most common infectious cause of death in the world ( JAMA, 1999). Most tuberculosis cases and deaths occur in developing countries, notably in Asia and Africa. In the United States, the annual incidence of tuberculosis is considerably lower than in developing countries ( The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease [IJTL] 1999). Nonetheless, tuberculosis remains an important problem in this country and the impact of tuberculosis has worsened in recent years. Not only is TB a problem in today's society, it has been infecting human beings all the way back to ancient times. There are many different aspects of the disease, and many different ways to treat it.
             Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is spread almost exclusively by airborne transmission (Ott, 1996). This bacterial infection primarily affects the lungs, but which may also affect the kidneys, bones, lymph nodes, and the brain. This horrible disease is transmitted from person to person, usually by inhaling bacteria-carrying air droplets. When a person infected with TB coughs, sneezes, or speaks, small particles that carry two to three bacteria surrounded by a layer of moisture are released into the air. Another person in contact with this infected person may inhale these particles, the bacteria may lodge in this person's lungs and multiply. If a person is left untreated, their active TB will infect on average between 10 and 15 people every year (Morbidity and Mortality Report, [MMR] 1999).

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