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Frequently Asked Questions
TB Control Section
Florida Department of Health
4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin A-20
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
- What is Tuberculosis?
- What are the symptoms of TB?
- How is Tuberculosis Transmitted?
- No one gets TB anymore, do they?
- Who gets TB?
- How can I tell if I have TB?
- Where can I get a TB skin Test or blood test?
- How is the skin test given?
- What if the test is negative?
- What if the test is positive?
- How is the blood test given?
- What should I do if I have TB infection or disease?
1. What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that 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 of the lung coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings. TB can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys or the spine.Top of Section
2. What are the symptoms of TB?
General symptoms may include feeling weak or sick, weight loss, fever and/or night sweats. Symptoms of TB of the lungs may include cough, chest pain and/or coughing up blood. Other symptoms depend on the particular part of the body that is affected.Top of Section
3. How is Tuberculosis Transmitted?
Tuberculosis is spread from person to person through the air. Through the 'shared air principle' TB germs are put into the air when someone with pulmonary TB disease (TB in their lungs) coughs or sneezes. A person who breathes in the bacteria can become infected.Top of Section
4. No one gets TB anymore, do they?
Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s deadliest infectious disease:
- One third of the world’s population is infected with TB.
- In 2015, 10.4 million people around the world became sick with TB disease. There were 1.8 million TB-related deaths worldwide.
- A total of 9,557 TB cases (a rate of 3.0 cases per 100,000 persons) were reported in the United States in 2015. The overall number of TB cases in the United States increased over the previous year in 2015 after having declined yearly during 1993–2014. Despite a slight increase in case count, the TB incidence rate per 100,000 persons has remained relatively stable at approximately 3.0 since 2013.
5. Who gets TB?
Anyone can get TB, but some people are at higher risk. Those at higher risk include:
- People who share the same breathing space (such as family members, friends, co-workers) with someone who has TB disease;
- Low-income groups with poor access to health care, including homeless people;
- Foreign-born people from countries where a lot of people have TB;
- People who live in high-risk residential settings, such as nursing homes, homeless shelters, or correctional facilities;
- Health care workers who serve high-risk clients;
- People who inject illegal drugs;
- People with medical conditions such as diabetes, certain types of cancers, and being underweight; and especially
- People with HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS)
6. How can I tell if I have TB?
First, get a TB skin test or blood test. If it is positive, you will probably be given other tests to see if you have TB infection or TB disease.
What is the difference between TB infection and TB disease?
People with TB disease are sick from germs that are active in their body. They usually have one or more of the symptoms of TB. These people are often capable of giving the infection to others. Permanent body damage and death can result from the disease. Medicines which can cure TB are prescribed for these people. People with TB infection (without disease) have the germ that causes TB in their body. They are not sick because the germ lies inactive in their body. They cannot spread the germ to others. However, these people may develop TB disease in the future, especially if they are in one of the high risk groups listed under "Who gets TB?" Medicine is often prescribed for these people to prevent them from developing TB disease.Top of Section
7. Where can I get a TB skin Test or blood test?
You can get a TB skin test from your doctor or local health department.Top of Section
8. How is the skin test given?
A small needle is used to put some testing material, called tuberculin, just under the skin. This is usually done on the inside of the arm. The person getting the test must return in 48 to 72 hours to see if there is a reaction to the test. If there is a reaction, the size of the reaction is measured.Top of Section
9. What if the test is negative?
A negative test usually means the person is not infected. However, the test may be falsely negative in a person who has been recently infected. It usually takes 2 to 10 weeks after exposure to a person with TB disease for the skin test to react positive. The test may also be falsely negative if the person's immune system is not working properly.Top of Section
10. What if the test is positive?
A positive reaction usually means that the person has been infected with the TB germ. It does not necessarily mean that the person has TB disease. Other tests, such as an x-ray or sputum sample, are needed to see if the person has TB disease.Top of Section
11. How is the blood test given?
A needle is inserted into a vein to collect a small sample of blood into a specimen tube, which is sent off to a laboratory for processing. Results are usually reported to your doctor’s office or local health department with 48-72 hours. Depending on which blood test you are given, your results may be positive, negative, borderline, indeterminate, or invalid. Your doctor will review your test results with you to determine whether you have or have not been infected with the TB germ, or if you need to be re-tested.Top of Section
12. What should I do if I have TB infection or disease?
Get required follow up tests. Follow your doctor's advice and take the medicine as prescribed. Today, TB is easily prevented and cured with medication.Top of Section