Tuberculosis

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The main way to avoid infection with the bacteria that cause TB is to avoid exposure to people with active disease.

There is a vaccine for TB, called the BCG vaccine (named after the French scientists who developed it, Calmette and Guérin; the B is for bacillus). BCG is often administered to infants and small children in countries where TB is common. It is usually not given in countries where TB is less common, such as the United States, because it does not protect adults very well against the disease and because it interferes with the results of TB skin tests. Though it is not perfect, the BCG vaccine does offer protection from the most serious forms of the disease in young children.

Many people who receive the BCG vaccination will have a positive TB skin test for the rest of their lives.

If you have a latent TB infection, you will need to take medicine to ensure that it does not turn into active TB disease. This is discussed in the Treatment section.

Last reviewed on 12/8/09

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