Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These bacteria usually attack the lungs but can attack any part of the body. If not treated properly TB disease can be fatal. TB was once the leading cause of death in the United States.

Interpreting TB Skin Tests
Printable TB FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions about TB

I have been told my TB skin test is "positive." What does that mean?

It means your body has reacted to your test by making a firm bump on your arm where the test was placed. A doctor or nurse has felt and measured the bump and it is significantly large. A positive test usually means at some time in your life, you were exposed to the TB germ.
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Does a positive test mean I'm sick with TB?

Probably not. After a positive skin test, a doctor or nurse will talk to you about the symptoms of TB and will have you get a chest x-ray. If the chest x-ray is normal and you don't have any symptoms (cough, weight loss, night sweats, fevers) you are not actively sick with TB. You probably have latent (inactive) TB.

Can I spread the TB germ to others?

People with latent TB infection have a few inactive TB bacteria in their bodies. They are not sick and they can’t spread the bacteria to others. Their healthy immune system keeps the TB germs from growing.

Will I get active TB disease if I have a positive skin test?

Most people with latent TB infection do not get active TB disease because their immune systems keep the TB germ from growing. In people with certain risk factors, however, TB germs may grow and make them sick.

High risk groups for becoming sick with TB disease are HIV positive people, contacts of a person with TB disease, children under the age of five, the elderly, those recently arrived from a foreign country, and anyone with a condition that weakens their immune system (diabetes, cancer, IV drug or alcohol abuse, and other medical treatments).

I’m HIV positive, should I be worried? HIV TB LINK

Yes. Because HIV infection weakens the immune system, people with latent TB infection and HIV are at very high risk for getting sick with TB. Everyone with HIV should be tested to see if they have latent TB infection. Likewise, people with positive skin tests who do not know their HIV status, should be tested for HIV.

How in the world did I get exposed to TB?

Most people don't know where or when they were exposed to TB disease. TB disease is very common in many countries (Africa, Asia, India, Latin America and Russia). In the USA, TB disease is more common in individuals born outside of the country and in those who live in homeless shelters, migrant farm camps, nursing homes, hospitals and correctional facilities.

How is TB treated?

Latent TB Infection - Latent TB infection is treated with a four to nine month course of antibiotics. The decision to treat latent TB infection is made after talking with a healthcare provider. People who choose not to get treated must be sure to contact a doctor right away if they get a cough lasting longer than 3 weeks, cough up blood, have fever or night sweats, lose weight or feel very tired.
TB Meds
TB Disease - A person with TB disease has a lot of TB bacteria in his body and needs to take many antibiotics. It is important to take all of the medication. Public health nurses visit patients at home to watch them take their pills. People being treated for TB disease need to stay home from work or school until a healthcare provider tells them they are no longer able to spread Tb to others.

Is TB treatment expensive?

All county public health departments in New York State treat both latent TB and TB disease. There is no charge for this treatment.

Do I need to get more TB skin tests after I have a reactive one?

No, there is no need to repeat a skin test after you have had a positive one. It will always be positive even after treatment. It is important to keep paperwork documenting your skin test and TB treatment (if you had it).

Should I have yearly chest x-rays instead?

No, yearly chest x-rays are not necessary or recommended. However, if you develop symptoms of TB disease (prolonged cough, coughing up blood, fever, unintended weight loss, etc.) you should let your healthcare provider know right away.

Where can I get a TB skin test?

TB skin tests are available at Ontario County Public Health for $15.00; cash, check or charge. We are located at 3019 County Complex Dr. Canandaigua, N.Y. 14424. Our hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-5:00 pm. We are closed on holidays. Call (585) 396-4343 to schedule your test or to speak with a nurse.

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More on Tuberculosis

NY State Department of Health

IGRA Blood Tests for TB
NIH-Medline Plus
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Last Updated 3/23/16