Tuberculosis is a disease is caused by the mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. Until scientists discovered treatments for tuberculosis in the 1940's, tuberculosis was among the leading causes of death for children and adults in the United States. Tuberculosis, in children and adults, is extremely contagious and primarily attacks the lungs, but can attack any region of the body.
Children with the first stage of tuberculosis may have a positive skin test but show not symptoms of the disease. At that point, they are not contagious to others. Children with full-blown tuberculosis will have varying symptoms depending on the location of the bacteria. Tuberculosis in the lungs will cause chest pain and severe coughing with possible blood and phlegm. Additional symptoms of tuberculosis may include chills, night sweats, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and overall sense of lethargy.
Children with positive tuberculosis skin results may be required to be hospitalised for further treatment. Older children may treated with oral medications at home. Tuberculosis treatment in children usually includes long-term use of three or more types of medications during a six- to 12-month period.
Parents can prevent their child from acquiring tuberculosis by keeping her away from people with possible tuberculosis infections. Children should also be kept away from populations at higher risk of spreading tuberculosis such as prisons, the homeless and those infected with HIV.
Tuberculosis in children can also cause bone, ear, joint and meningitis infections. Tuberculosis tends to affect those with weak immune systems, therefore, children with tuberculosis should also be tested for the HIV virus.
Children with tuberculosis are not as contagious as adults. Children tend to have smaller lung lesions and cough less than adults.
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