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Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in your body. It is most often found in the lungs. Most people who are exposed to TB never develop symptoms because the bacteria can live in an inactive form in the body. But if the immune system weakens TB bacteria can become active. TB bacteria cause death of tissue in the organs they infect. Active TB disease can be fatal if left untreated.

Common symptoms include:

  • A cough with thick, cloudy, and sometimes bloody mucus from the lungs (sputum) for more than 2 weeks.
  • Fever, chills, and night sweats.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain.
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    Symptoms of TB outside the lungs (extra pulmonary TB) vary widely depending on which area of the body is infected. For example, back pain can be a symptom of TB in the spine, or your neck may get swollen when lymph nodes in the neck are infected.

    To avoid getting an active TB infection:

  • Do not spend long periods of time in stuffy, enclosed rooms with anyone who has active TB until that person has been treated for at least 2 weeks.
  • Use protective measures, such as face masks, if you work in a facility that cares for people who have untreated TB.
  • If you live with someone who has active TB, help and encourage the person to follow treatment instructions.
  • A TB vaccine (bacilli Chalmette-Guerin, or BCG) is used in many countries to prevent TB.