Tuberculosis: an Overview for Workers

Pennsylvania residents who work in places where the same people share the same space for an extended period of time should be aware that transmission of tuberculosis is a risk that they face. This includes healthcare employees and those who work in prisons, jails, homeless and social assistance shelters and emergency shelters. The risk usually arises with a patient, prisoner or shelter client who has unrecognized TB.

TB is an infectious disease that primarily targets the lungs and larynx. When persons with TB expel air through talking, coughing and sneezing, they expel droplets containing the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis along with it. These droplets become dry and hang in the air as droplet nuclei; those who breathe in the droplet nuclei will then be infected.

TB infection is a risk when people share space for an extended time. In rare cases, though, one can be infected after short-term exposure to persons with active TB. The disease is treatable with anti-TB drugs or with alternative medicine if the patient has drug-resistant strains. Most immune systems can contain, but not eliminate, the infection.

If contained, a person is left with latent TB, which does not cause symptoms or spread to others. Without treatment, persons will develop active TB. This can happen at any time although the first few years after infection pose the highest risk.

If someone working in a healthcare setting, prison or shelter develops TB, he or she may be able to seek compensation for medical care through the workers’ compensation program. It will be necessary to prove that the TB is in fact a workplace illness. This is where a lawyer may come in. After a case evaluation, the lawyer might hire third parties to build up the evidence and mount an appeal if the claim is denied.

For more information call the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello at 610-892-4940.