HealthSheets™


How to Prevent the Spread of Tuberculosis

Outline of human head and chest with head turned to side. Inside of nose, trachea, and lungs are visible. Droplets are being breathed in to nose and lungs.
TB disease is spread through the air in invisible droplets. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by a bacteria (germ). It is spread from person to person through the air. TB may scar the lungs and other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, bones, or the brain. TB can even be fatal. There are two forms of TB: latent TB infection and TB disease.

Latent TB infection (inactive)

Latent TB infection is also called inactive TB. If you have latent TB infection:

  • You’ve been exposed to TB. There are TB bacteria in your body, but you have no symptoms and are not sick. The only way to know if you have a TB infection is to have a skin test or a blood test for TB.

  • You can’t spread TB to others.

  • You may develop TB disease (active TB) if you do not receive treatment or your immune system is weakened. This can happen if you are elderly or have HIV, for example.

TB disease (active)

TB disease is also called active TB. If you have TB disease:

  • Symptoms include a lasting cough, fatigue, coughing up blood, chest pain, sweating at night, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

  • You CAN spread active TB to others. Your family, friends, and people you work with closely should be tested.

  • Take all medicine until it’s gone. TB disease can almost always be cured. But you may become sick again if you don’t take all your medicine, even if you feel better.

Who’s at risk

Anyone who has ever had contact with a person with active TB can get TB. Groups of people who are considered to be at high risk of TB include:

  • People from countries with high rates of TB

  • Residents and employees of long-term care facilities (such as nursing homes and prisons)

  • People who don’t get medical care (including the poor and the homeless)

  • People who use illegal injected drugs

  • People who have HIV infection or other medical risk factors (such as diabetes and end-stage renal disease)

 

Important:

If you think you’re at high risk of TB or have been exposed to someone with the disease, get tested!

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