Tuberculosis, or TB, is a lung infection involving the tuberculosis bacteria. Formerly known as “consumption,” tuberculosis has a unique set of symptoms that can be fatal half of the time if the disease is left untreated.
Tuberculosis is especially dangerous in the hospital setting because it preys on people who have compromised immune systems and spreads very slowly, requiring extensive contact with someone who has been infected.
While treating tuberculosis is feasible thanks to crucially important medical advances, a tuberculosis infection during your hospital stay can end up costing thousands of dollars in medical care. It can also make you suffer far more than you would have, had you not gotten infected. When you get infected with tuberculosis in a controlled setting like a hospital, there was often very little that you could have done to avoid it. The medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can fight for your right to compensation.
The bacteria tuberculosis is present in an estimated 25% of the world's population, with additional infections spreading to another percent every year. The vast majority of these tuberculosis cases, though, are in the developing world, where medical care is less available and where people live in deep poverty and cannot take basic precautions against the disease.
Additionally, most of these infections are latent. When it is latent, tuberculosis has no symptoms and cannot spread from the person who has a latent infection. The immune system in each person infected with latent tuberculosis is keeping the infection in check. If their immune system gets compromised, the bacteria that have already gained entry can begin to show symptoms, making tuberculosis lose its latency and become a problem.
Causes of Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is caused by contact with someone who has already been infected with the tuberculosis bacteria in its non-latent state. People with active tuberculosis spread it whenever they expel air from their lungs, including when they:
Any droplet of moisture in this air can carry enough tuberculosis to spread the infection to someone else, and a single sneeze can carry up to 40,000 of those droplets. Doctors have found that it takes fewer than 10 germs of the tuberculosis bacteria to infect someone.
While it is very contagious, tuberculosis infects people very slowly. You often have to have prolonged contact with someone who has been infected to get it, yourself. Once there is prolonged contact, though, the odds of getting infected are troublingly high.
Risk Factors of Tuberculosis
Certain people are at a much higher risk of developing tuberculosis than others. They include:
- People who are intimate with someone who has tuberculosis
- Prolonged exposure or contact with someone infected with tuberculosis
- Frequent contact with someone who has tuberculosis
- An immune system that has been compromised by old age or HIV
- Anyone who lives in crowded conditions, like a homeless shelter or a prison
- Sharing needles with someone who has been infected
- Existing lung diseases, like silicosis
- A history of smoking cigarettes
Additionally, people who have been in the hospital for a prolonged period of time can be more at risk of developing tuberculosis. A crucial component of treating someone who has tuberculosis is to quarantine them and prevent interactions with non-infected people. If the hospital fails to do this – often by misdiagnosing the infected person's tuberculosis – it can lead to the kinds of interactions that spread tuberculosis.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
When it infects the lungs, tuberculosis has a telling set of symptoms that include:
- A lingering cough that continues for at least three weeks
- Coughing up mucus and blood
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss – the symptom that led people to call the condition “consumption” in earlier centuries
- Night sweats
- Chest pain
These symptoms, however, only appear if tuberculosis is not latent. Latent tuberculosis exhibits no symptoms.
Tuberculosis can infect other organs of the body. However, these tuberculosis infections are uncommon.
How to Prevent Tuberculosis
In the U.S., many children are vaccinated for tuberculosis, helping stop the spread of tuberculosis. However, practicing good hygiene and avoiding people who have been infected with tuberculosis is the best way to stay safe if you have not been vaccinated or want to reduce your risks of getting infected. This includes:
- Washing your hands
- Staying away from people who are coughing or sneezing
- Avoiding contact with someone else's bodily fluids, like those contained in dirty Kleenex
- Keep common areas well ventilated
What to Do If You Get Tuberculosis in a Philadelphia Hospital
Hospital stays are one of the risk factors for developing a case of tuberculosis because infected people often go there for treatment, and lots of the people already in the hospital have compromised immune systems. The spread of tuberculosis is almost predictable if the hospital does not take measures to quarantine tuberculosis victims quickly and minimize their contact with the rest of the hospital's patients. That is why hospitals have standard procedures in place to handle incoming tuberculosis cases.
If the hospital fails to follow these procedures, though, you or a loved one might get infected with tuberculosis at a time when you are least able to deal with a serious medical condition. This can put your health at risk in a severe and potentially even life-threatening way.
Getting a second opinion on your medical condition is often a crucial first step if you think you have gotten tuberculosis while at a Philadelphia hospital. The doctors at the hospital could already be worried about facing a medical malpractice suit, and try to downplay your condition to dodge liability.
If it becomes clear that you have a case of hospital-acquired tuberculosis, talking to a lawyer can be a wise move. You did nothing to get infected with tuberculosis and were only hurt because of the hospital's mistakes. You should be compensated for your condition.
The lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can fight on your behalf to get you the compensation that you need and deserve. Contact them online.