Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis. Learn more about the current state of TB.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but can attack any part of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB can be deadly.

How is TB spread?

TB in the lungs or throat can be spread to other people.  The germs are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in the germs and become infected. People with active TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with every day, such as family members, friends, or co-workers.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Persons with active TB may:

  • Have a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer
  • Cough up blood or mucus
  • Feel weak or tired
  • Lose weight
  • Have a fever or night sweats
  • Have chest pain

How is TB diagnosed? 

The most common tool for diagnosing TB is a simple skin test. If a TB test is positive, further tests, such as a chest x-ray, may be needed. 

How is TB treated? 

TB is treated with medicines. People with TB will have to take these medicines for many months to make sure all the TB germs are gone from their bodies.

Is TB still a problem today?

Despite better treatment, TB is still a very serious disease worldwide. It is estimated that one-fourth of the world's population is infected with TB. Today, there are also strains of TB that are resistant to medicines. People who do not take their TB medicine regularly, or do not finish all of their medicine, are at risk for getting these strains.


Who should be tested?

People who have:

  • Been around someone who is known to have active TB disease
  • Injected illegal drugs and/or shared needles
  • Been infected with HIV/AIDS or another disease that weakens the immune system
  • Lived or worked in homeless shelters, prisons, jails, or nursing homes
  • Moved from an area with high rates of TB
  • Symptoms of active TB disease

What is the difference between TB infection and active TB disease?

Most people who breathe in the TB germs and become infected are able to fight it off and keep it from growing. They have the TB germ in their body without being sick. This is often called latent TB infection or "sleeping" TB.

People with latent TB infection:

  • Have no symptoms
  • Don't feel sick
  • Can't spread TB to others
  • Usually have a positive TB skin test reaction
  • May develop active TB disease if they do not get proper treatment 
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