General Information | Tuberculosis Clinic | Pre-Employment and School Testing
Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease caused by germs (bacteria) that generally attack the lungs. The germs are spread through the air, when a person with active TB disease coughs, sneezes, speaks or even laughs and the bacteria is inhaled by another person. These germs can stay in the air for several hours depending on the environment. People are most likely to become infected with TB if they spend many hours in close contact (family members or co-workers) with someone infected with Active TB Disease. Though TB is a serious disease, it can be treated with medication.
If you suspect you have been exposed to TB disease, you should go to your doctor or local health department to be tested for TB.
Mantoux Tuberculin Skin Test
An injection of a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the skin in the lower part of the arm. Your arm is checked 48-72 hours later by a trained health care worker - they will be looking for a reaction (raised bump) in the injection site.
A blood test that measures how your immune system reacts to the germs that cause TB.
If your test comes back positive, it tells you that you have been infected with TB germs. Other tests, such as chest x-rays and a sputum sample will determine if you have active TB disease.
Latent TB Infection vs. Active TB Disease
Latent TB Infection (LTBI)
TB germs are in your body, but you are not sick because the germs are not active. These germs are currently "sleeping", but they are still alive. They will remain asleep as long as your body can fight them off.
You cannot spread these germs to others.
The length of time the TB germs can stay asleep varies. To help protect yourself from these germs "waking up", you may be given medications to kill the germs.
If the TB germs "wake up" and begin to grow and spread in your body; you have Active TB disease.
Active TB Disease (TB Disease)
TB germs are active in your body, meaning they are "waking up", multiplying and spreading.
You have symptoms of TB disease (cough lasting more than 3 weeks, weight loss, poor appetite, sweating at night, fever, chills, feeling tired or weak, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or brown-colored material from your lungs).
You can spread germs to others through the air (coughing, sneezing or talking).
You are prescribed drugs (for 6-12 months) that can treat TB disease.
You must take all your medication correctly, if not, you could become sick again, become resistant to your medication (your medication won't work), or your TB could come back stronger. If this happens you will have to take stronger medication for a longer time.
In some situations, local health departments meet regularly with patients to watch them take their medication - this is called directly observed therapy (DOT).
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Minnesota Department of Health | Centers for Disease Control | Frequently Asked Questions