Amy Winehouse is a sick woman. The British singer has been hospitalized in a London hospital ever since fainting at home on June 16.
Winehouse was not diagnosed with the sometimes fatal lung infection Tuberculosis as some online reports suggested.
But you could be infected with Tuberculosis right now and not even know it.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious lung infection caused by inhaling an airborne 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.
When a person with active TB coughs or sneezes, the bacterium becomes airborne and is then inhaled by people nearby. It isn't just the homeless who are infected with TB: anyone can catch TB. As a matter of fact, some TB patients are well-to-do people who travel in Third World countries or underdeveloped nations where access to medical care is limited or non-existent.
You can very likely contract TB from the doctor or lawyer sitting next to you on a plane, or from a co-worker who recently returned from a trip to Africa. Most people with TB don't know they have it because the germ is usually subdued by the body's immune system which sends blood cells to attack it.
The problem is the TB germ can trick the body into thinking it's dead when in fact it is lying dormant inside the lung until it's awakened years later by an immune system that is weakened by other illnesses.
People who have the dormant or latent TB infection cannot infect others. They will not have symptoms and can live with the infection for a lifetime without ever becoming ill. When the infection is "awakened" or becomes active - that person is considered a threat to public health and must be treated immediately.
Those with active infections who refuse to comply with their treatment regimen (which can take up to 9 months to complete) can be arrested and detained for treatment.
The symptoms of active TB infection are:
- weakness or fatigue
- weight loss
- no appetite
- sweating at night
- productive or non-productive cough
A positive skin test (PPD) does not mean you have active TB. Further testing is needed to determine if you are active (contagious). Even if you are not contagious you should still seek treatment to prevent the disease from becoming active. As always, consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms or have any questions.
This has been your Medical Minute!