Tuberculosis Outbreak Causes Concern for Families in VA

First Posted: Jun 23, 2013 10:05 PM EDT

A tuberculosis outbreak hit more than 400 families in northern Virginia, potentially exposing students to the disease at Lee High School in Fairfax County, according to

Tuberculosis (TB), a potentially serious infectious disease that harms the lungs with tiny droplets of bacteria that are released in the air from coughs and sneezes.

The Mayo Clinic notes the following regarding the history of the disease: "Once rare in developed countries, tuberculosis infections began increasing in 1985, partly because of the emergence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens a person's immune system so it can't fight the TB germs. In the United States, because of stronger control programs, tuberculosis began to decrease again in 1993, but remains a concern...

Many strains of tuberculosis resist the drugs most used to treat the disease. People with active tuberculosis must take several types of medications for many months to eradicate the infection and prevent development of antibiotic resistance."

Unfortunately, symptoms of the disease can be tough to spot and may come on gradually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs include feeling tired, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Other less common ones may also include a bad cough that does not go away, chest pain or a cough with blood or mucus.

If you think you have been exposed to someone with TB, you can contact your doctor or local health department for a TB skin test.

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