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Can Nurse. 2004 Nov;100(9):27-30.

Tuberculosis prevention and treatment.

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McMaster Institute of Environment and Health, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.


Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the oldest known diseases and has claimed more lives than any other Today, about one-third of the world's population is infected with TB. In 2003, 1,379 cases of new, active and relapsed TB were reported in Canada. TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Only 10 per cent of infected individuals will develop active TB. Pulmonary TB can be spread by an infectious person through the aerosolization of droplets when coughing, talking, spitting, sneezing or singing. Symptoms of pulmonary TB are a cough with or without sputum production lasting at least three weeks, chest pain, hemoptysis, fever, night sweats, weight loss, lack of appetite, chills and weakness. Extrapulmonary TB is generally not associated with person-to-person spread. Common sites include the throat, lymph nodes, abdomen, intestines, long bones of the legs, spine, kidneys, bladder, skin, eyes and meninges. The risk factors for TB infection and disease include close contact with an active pulmonary TB case, HIV infection or AIDS, inactive disease not adequately treated, low income, underlying medical condition, homelessness, alcoholism, injection drug use, aboriginal background or occupation in health care. Risk settings include travel or residence in an endemic area or work or residence in a correctional facility, shelter, rooming house, residential facility, hospital or long-term care facility. Nurses need to advocate for the prompt diagnosis and isolation of suspected and confirmed TB cases. Knowing when to institute such measures as isolation in a negative pressure room, using respirator masks and limiting interpersonal contacts is vital to the nursing care of TB patients. In addition, the role of the public health department needs to be understood; for example, all jurisdictions have legislated requirements for reporting new positive TB skin tests to public health.

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