Tuberculosis FAQ

What are the symptoms of TB?

The general symptoms of TB disease include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. The symptoms of TB disease of the lungs also include coughing, chest pain and the coughing up of blood. Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.

What Is the Difference Between Latent TB Infection and TB Disease?

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.

People with TB disease are sick from TB germs that are active, meaning that they are multiplying and destroying tissue in their body. They usually have symptoms of TB disease. People with TB disease of the lungs or throat are capable of spreading germs to others. People with TB disease are treated with a minimum of 4 medications for several months in order to be cured.

How is TB spread from person to person?

TB germs are spread into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. These germs can stay in the air for several hours depending on the environment. Persons who breathe in the air containing these TB germs can become infected. This is called latent TB infection.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Exposed to Someone with TB Disease?

People with TB disease are most likely to spread the germs to people they spend time with every day, such as family members, friends or coworkers. If you have been around someone who has TB disease, you should be tested here at our facility or your home town physician, or the local health department. The TB screening process will need to be repeated a second time 8 weeks after the last exposure to the person with TB disease.

What should I do if I think I might have TB?

Call our Nurse Helpline at 785-864-9583 or your home town physician for an appointment. Tell the person that you might have TB. You will be asked to wear a mask when you enter Watkins Health Center. THIS IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURE THAT WILL LIMIT THE SPREAD OF ILLNESS TO OTHERS.

What Should I Do If I Have Spent Time with Someone with Latent TB Infection?

A person with latent TB infection cannot spread germs to other people. You do not need to be tested if you have spent time with someone with latent TB infection.

However, if you have spent time with someone with TB disease or someone with symptoms of TB, you should be tested.

How Do You Get Tested for TB?

There are two tests that can be used to help detect TB infection. The Mantoux TB skin test is performed by injecting a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person given the tuberculin skin test (PPD skin test) must return within 48 to 72 hours to have a trained health care worker look for a reaction on the arm.

A second test is the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold test. The QuantiFERON®-TB Gold test is a blood test that measures how the patient’s immune system reacts to the germs that cause TB.

Both tests are available at Watkins Health Center. To make an appointment, call our Nurse Helpline at 785-864-9583.

What does it mean to have a “Positive” Tuberculin Skin Test or QuantiFERON®-TB Gold Blood Test?

A positive tuberculin skin test or a positive QuantiFERON®-TB Gold blood test means that a person has been infected with TB germs. These are considered tests for TB screening or exposure. A positive test does not tell whether or not the person has progressed from latent TB infection to TB disease. A person with a positive test is required to have a Chest X-ray which can also be performed at Watkins Health Center.

What is Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG)?

BCG is a vaccine for TB disease. BCG is used in many countries, but it is not available in the United States. BCG vaccination does not completely prevent people from getting TB. It may also cause a false positive tuberculin skin test. Persons who have been vaccinated with BCG vaccine should be screened for TB with the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold blood test. There is No interaction between the BCG vaccine and the TB blood test.

Why Is Latent TB Infection Treated?

If you have latent TB infection but not TB disease, the doctor may recommend that you take medication to kill the TB germs and prevent you from developing active TB disease. Generally, a person with latent TB infection has a 10% chance of developing active TB disease in their lifetime. Some people are more likely than others to develop TB disease once they have TB infection. This includes people with HIV infection, people who were recently exposed to someone with TB disease and people with certain chronic medical conditions. Latent TB infection is treated with two TB drugs (Isoniazid & Rifapentine) once weekly for 12 weeks by direct observation therapy. Completion of treatment for latent TB infection reduces a person's risk for developing active TB disease from 10% to less than 1%.

How Is TB Disease Treated?

TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 12 months or longer. 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. Direct Observation Therapy or DOT is utilized by nurses who give the TB medication. This therapy decreases the possibility of taking the medication incorrectly and, therefore, reduces the possibility of producing resistant TB organisms.

What is the University’s policy on TB screening?

Please refer to our Policy Compliance page for full information on the KU policy regarding TB screening.

Where Can I Get More Information On TB?


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