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TB FACT SHEET
What is tuberculosis (TB)?
TB is a treatable bacterial disease that is spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body as well, including the brain, kidneys or spine. TB germs are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs coughs, sneezes, talks or sings.
What are the symptoms of TB?
TB of the lungs may include cough, chest pain and/or coughing up blood. The general symptoms of TB disease include feeling sick or weak, weight loss, fever, chills and night sweats.
How can you tell if someone has TB?
The tuberculin skin test (TST) is used to find out whether or not a person is infected with TB germs. For the test, a small amount of tuberculin solution is injected under the skin on the forearm. Two or three days later, a health care worker checks for a reaction on the arm. If it is positive, other tests such as a chest x-ray, will be done to see if the person has TB infection or TB disease.
What is the difference between TB infection and TB disease?
TB can take two forms: TB infection and active TB disease. A person with TB infection (but not active TB disease) is not sick and does not experience any TB symptoms. Persons with TB infection cannot spread the germs to others because the bacteria are not active. Persons with TB infection can be prescribed medicine to prevent them from developing active TB disease.
Persons with TB infection:
- Have no symptoms and do not feel sick
- Cannot spread TB to others
- Usually have a positive TST and a normal chest x-ray
Persons with active TB disease:
- May have symptoms that include: prolonged coughing, chills/fever, unexplained weight loss, chest pain, weakness, night sweats
- May spread TB to others
- Often have an abnormal chest x-ray
What does it mean to have a “positive” skin test?
A positive reaction to the TST does not necessarily mean that a person has active TB disease. A positive TST only shows that the TB germ has infected the person’s body. Everyone with a positive TST should have an x-ray to confirm if there is TB infection or active TB disease. Only about 10% of people infected with TB will go on to develop active TB disease over the course of their lifetime.
Additional information on TB can be found at: www.cdc.gov/tb/faqs/default.html
Public Health local contact number: 707-784-8076