Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine. A person with TB can die if they do not get treatment.
TB germs are put 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. 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. They are prescribed drugs that can cure TB disease.
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.
People with TB disease are most likely to spread the germs to people they spend time with every day, such as family members or coworkers. If you have been around someone who has TB disease, you should go to your doctor or your local health department for tests.
It is very important to get tested for TB infection at least once a year if you are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). If you think you might have HIV infection, talk to your health care provider about getting an HIV test. If you have HIV infection and TB infection, the sooner you start taking anti-TB medicine, the better your chances are to stay healthy for many years. Anti-TB drugs are strong. They can prevent or cure TB disease even in people with HIV infection.
Call your health care provider or the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health if you think you may have TB or have been exposed to TB. For medical referrals for TB evaluation, please call 336-641-3777 (High Point) or 336-641-3256 (Greensboro).To make an appointment in either the Greensboro or the High Point clinic locations for a TB skin test, please call 336-641-3245. There is a small fee at both sites for TB skin testing. All services are confidential. If you have questions about the test, call 336-641-3245.