Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs. But, TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. TB disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States.
TB (PDF)is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. However, not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. People who are not sick have what is called latent TB infection. People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others. But, some people with latent TB infection go on to get TB disease. People with active TB disease can be treated and cured if they seek medical help. Even better, people with latent TB infection can take medicine so that they will not develop active TB disease.
Bovine TB is a type of tuberculosis that can affect both humans and animals, such as cattle, deer, and pigs. Bovine TB (PDF)is caused by a germ called Mycobacterium bovis, which is very similar to the agent that usually causes tuberculosis in humans, and it causes similar symptoms. In humans, bovine TB most often affects the lungs, lymph nodes or organs of the digestive system. It is a curable disease.