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Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.
For a long time, tuberculosis was one of the primary causes of death in many countries. Through public health programs, tuberculosis became rare in developed countries, but the number of cases began increasing in 1985, partly due to the emergence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens a person`s immune system so it can`t fight the TB germs.
Many strains of tuberculosis can resist the effects of the drugs most commonly used to treat the disease. People who have active tuberculosis must take several different types of medications together for many months to eradicate the infection and prevent development of antibiotic resistance.
Before the discovery of bacteria, there were many incorrect explanations of tuberculosis. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, the leading American physician during the first years of nationhood, postulated a number of causes and recommended various methods of treatment, all of them wrong.
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Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History by Sheila M. Rothman.
Tuberculosis -- once the cause of as many as one in five deaths in the U.S. -- crossed all boundaries of class and gender, but the methods of treatmen...