or TB, is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria (germ)
called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It generally
affects the lungs, but can sometimes cause infections in
the lymph nodes, the kidneys, the brain or the spine. The
germ may infect anyone, at any age.
general symptoms of TB disease include feeling sick or weak,
and having weight loss, fever, and night sweats. The symptoms
of TB of the lungs include coughing, chest pain, and coughing
up blood. Other symptoms depend on the part of the body
that is affected.
can get TB infection if they inhale air that contains TB
germs. People with TB infection, but not TB disease,
have the germ that causes TB in their bodies. They are not
sick because the germs are inactive or dormant. They cannot
spread the germ to others. However, these people may
develop TB disease in the future.
with TB disease are sick from germs that are active
in their body. They usually have symptoms of TB. Usually,
people with TB disease of the lungs or throat are capable
of spreading the disease to others.
is tuberculosis spread?
is spread from person to person through the air. When people
with TB disease of the lungs or throat cough or sneeze,
they can put TB germs into the air. Other people who breathe
in the air containing these germs can become infected. People
with TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they
spend time with every day, such as family members or coworkers.
soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
people who are exposed to TB germs will develop a positive
tuberculin skin test approximately 2-10 weeks after
exposure. People who develop a positive tuberculin skin
test are infected with TB germs. Ninety percent of these
people will never develop TB disease. The risk for developing
active TB disease is highest in the first two years after
someone develops a positive tuberculin skin test. Some people
are more likely than others to develop TB disease if they
become infected with TB: people who are infected with the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), people who were recently
exposed to someone with TB disease, and people with certain
is tuberculosis diagnosed?
tuberculin skin test is used for finding out whether a person
is infected with the TB germ. It does not tell whether a
person has TB disease. For the skin test, a small amount
of fluid called tuberculin is injected under the skin in
the lower part of the arm. Two or three days later, a health
care worker looks for a reaction on the arm. Other tests,
such as a chest X-ray and an examination of a sample of
phlegm (mucous material from the lungs), are needed to see
whether the person has TB disease.
is the treatment for tuberculosis?
with TB infection, but not TB disease, may be given a drug
(or drugs) to prevent them from developing the disease.
The most commonly used drug, isoniazid (INH), is taken for
6-9 months. The decision about the use of preventive therapy
is based on the person's age, their chances of developing
the disease, and health care provider recommendations.
disease can be cured by taking several drugs for 6-9 months.
It is very important for people who have TB disease to take
all of their drugs exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking
the drugs too soon, or if they do not take the drugs correctly,
the germs that are alive may become resistant to those drugs.
TB that is resistant to drugs is harder to treat. In most
situations, local health department staff meet regularly
with patients who have TB to help them remember to take
their medications. This is called directly observed therapy
can tuberculosis be prevented?
you think you have been around someone who has TB disease,
you should go to your health care provider or local health
department for a tuberculin skin test. If you are prescribed
drugs for TB infection or TB disease, it is very important
that you take them all exactly as prescribed. The best way
to prevent TB is to completely treat people who have active
is a vaccine for TB, the bacille Calmette-Guerin or BCG
vaccine. It is used in many countries, but it is not used
widely in the United States. BCG vaccination does not completely
prevent people from getting TB. (People who have been vaccinated
with BCG can be given a tuberculin skin test. Contact your
local health department for assistance in interpreting the
results of such a test.)
can I get more information?
personal physician or health care provider
local health department, listed in your telephone directory
Utah Department of Health, Bureau of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis
& Refugee Health (801) 538-6096
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Bureau of Epidemiology
fact sheet was based on the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention's Tuberculosis: General Information sheet
(last updated 4/30/96).