What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that usually affects the lungs. TB has been one of the deadliest diseases in the world. Anyone can get TB.
TB can be cured and prevented from spreading with proper care and treatment.
Latent TB Infection
Most people who breathe in TB germs do not get sick. The germs can stay in a person's body, but their healthy immune system can prevent the them from spreading.
People with latent TB infection do not show any symptoms.
If you have latent TB infection, your health care provider or doctor will tell you if you should take medicine to avoid active TB.
Active TB Disease
When a person's body can not fight TB germs, they become sick. As a result, the person has active TB disease.
A person may have symptoms with active TB disease. They can spread TB germs to others.
People with active TB may show the following symptoms.
- Coughing for more than 3 weeks
- Weight loss
- Heavy sweating at night
- Feeling tired all the time (fatigue)
- Loss of appetite
People with active TB disease must take medicine to kill the TB germs to protect others and to protect their lungs and other parts of the body.
Am I at Risk for TB?
These eight questions can
help you determine if you may be at risk,
Click on any statement that apply to you.
1. Have you previously tested positive for TB?
A positive test could mean you have the TB germ in your body. It would be good to talk to your doctor about your TB status.
2. Were you born outside of the US, Canada, Australia, Western, or
If you were born in a country where TB is common, you have a higher risk of exposure. It would be good to talk to your doctor about your TB risk.
3. Do you have HIV/AIDS, cancer, a transplant, an immune compromising
condition, or take immune suppressing medications?
People with weak immune systems have a much higher risk of developing TB disease than people with normal immune systems.
4. Have you lived with or spent time with anyone who had or may have had TB?
TB is airborne. When a person with active TB coughs, speaks, sings, or sneezes, germs spread through the air. People who breathe in the germs can get TB.
5. Have you lived in or visited any of the following areas for more than
one month (30 days): Asia, Mexico, Central or South America, Africa, the
Caribbean or Eastern Europe?
Some countries have more TB than others. If you have lived or traveled for more than 30 days (1 month) in a country with where TB is more common, you have a higher risk of exposure.
6. Do you cross the US-Mexico border frequently?
As with traveling to countries for a long period of time, traveling back and forth to a country with a higher rate of TB increases your risk of exposure.
- 7. Do you eat unpasteurized queso fresco or other unpasteurized dairy products from Mexico?
8. Do you have a history of homelessness, incarceration, or drug abuse
(or been in close contact with someone with this history)?
TB occurs more often among people who experience homelessness, incarceration, and drug abuse. The risk of TB exposure is higher among people affected by these challenges.
If you may have a risk, we recommend that you talk to a healthcare provider about your TB status and if you should have a test.
If you are at risk, ask your doctor or other health care provider for a TB test. If you do not have your own provider, many clinics offer TB testing in San Diego or contact a County TB clinic (telehealth options are available).
TB skin testing services may also be available at community health centers (Community Health Centers), walk-in clinics and some pharmacies. Individuals without health insurance will be assessed for eligibility based on risk for tuberculosis.
TB testing services required as part of an adjustment of immigration status are not provided. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a listing of qualified Civil Surgeons to conduct these evaluations. Adjustment of status applicants should obtain required TB services from their Civil Surgeon provider.
Other Communities At High Risk For TB
People living or working in high-risk settings
Some examples include:
- nursing homes
- jails or prisons
- living shelters (examples: shelters for the homeless or women's shelters)
If children are exposed to TB germs, they are at high risk of getting sick with TB. This is because their immune system is not strong enough to fight off TB germs. Please visit the TB Free California TB and Children webpage for more information.
People consuming dairy products that have unsafe bacteria
Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) is a bacteria that causes a certain type of TB. You can get M. bovis from consuming dairy products that are not pasteurized (a process that removes bacteria). For more information, Please see the TB Free California Bovine TB Fact Sheet (PDF).
People born in another country and received the BCG vaccine.
The BCG vaccine is given to people in some countries at an early age to protect against TB. As people get older, the vaccine does not work to provide protection so you can still get latent TB infection and TB disease.
You should speak to your doctor about getting a blood test to check if you have been exposed to TB germs. Learn more about BCG at the CDC BCG Vaccine webpage.
I May Have Been Exposed To TB.