What is TB and how do you get it?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial disease that can attack any part of your body. It usually affects the lungs, but can affect lymph nodes, kidneys, bones, joints, and other parts of the body. It is spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs. The germs are put into the air when a person with TB coughs, sneezes, laughs, or talks. TB can also affect other parts of the body, such as kidneys, the brain, or the spine.

Common Symptoms

  • Cough for over 3 weeks
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Chest pain loss of appetite
  • Fatigue (or feeling tired)
  • Coughing up blood.

What is the difference between latent and active TB?

People with latent TB infection have TB germs in their bodies, but they are not sick because the germs are not active. These people do not have symptoms of TB disease, and they cannot spread the germs to others. However, they may develop TB disease in the future. They are often prescribed treatment to prevent them from developing TB disease. Because there are less bacteria in a person with latent TB infection, treatment is much easier. Usually, only one drug is needed to treat latent TB infection.

A person with active TB disease has a large amount of TB bacteria in the body. TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 12 months. It is very important that people who have TB disease finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick again; if they do not take the drugs correctly, the germs that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat.

Who gets tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis can affect anyone. People infected with the HIV virus, AIDS patients, persons with weakened immune systems, and the elderly are at increased risk. Other medical risks include: diabetes mellitus, prolonged corticosteroid therapy, immunosuppressive therapy, cancer, silicosis and being 10 percent or more below ideal body weight.

Who Should Get Tested for TB?

Persons should get tested for TB by their doctor or local health department if they

  • have spent time with a person known or suspected to have active TB disease; or
  • have HIV infection or another condition that weakens the immune system and puts them at high risk for active TB disease; or
  • have symptoms of active TB disease; or
  • are from a country where active TB disease is very common (most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia); or
  • live somewhere in the United States where active TB disease is more common such as a homeless shelter, migrant farm camp, prison or jail, or some nursing homes); or
  • inject illegal drugs.

Where do I get tested?

  • By Your Private Provider

For More Information:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Washington State Department of Health