- Latent TB: In this mild form of TB, the disease-causing bacteria is present, however, the body is able to keep it under check and does not let it spread. Also known as the ‘TB infection’ stage, where only the infection is present, which does not pose any direct harm.
- Active TB: Characterised by persistent coughs, fevers, and night sweat, it can prove to be fatal if left untreated. Known as the ‘TB disease’ stage.
- Reactivation TB – In this case, the primary TB infection gets resolved, but the infection-causing bacteria remain present and dormant. Once the body has lower immunity, the disease can spring back.
Tuberculosis throws up rather generic symptoms which can be hard to differentiate from symptoms of other common illnesses. Some of the common signs that tell whether your infant is suffering from the disease are:
- Persistent cold
- Whooping cough
- Weight loss and overall malaise
- Complaints of sweating at night
The facts that most of these symptoms are similar to that of say common cold, or pneumonia, makes it more challenging for doctors to correctly diagnose TB at the right time. They may need to run a large number of diagnostic problems before confirming the disease:
- Clinical evidence – Careful history (including TB contacts; symptoms consistent with TB), physical examination (including growth assessment), and HIV testing (in high HIV prevalence areas)
- Non-microbiological testing – Tuberculin skin testing and other investigations relevant for pulmonary or extra pulmonary TB like X-rays.
- Microbiological testing – Bacteriological confirmation
Once diagnosis is done, most infants can be treated as outpatients with regular and periodic medicines being administered to them, generally in the form of oral medicines. Make sure the full course of medication is given to avoid any relapse. Often more than one drug is recommended, as TB generally quickly develops resistance to one drug.
Tuberculosis can be prevented by administering the BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin) vaccine to babies right after birth. It can also be kept at bay by avoiding contact with those who have the disease, by using medicines as a pre-emptive medication in high-risk cases, and by maintaining a clean, sanitized living standard.