TB Screening and Treatment

Anchorage Public Health Clinic provides testing and treatment for both latent and active tuberculosis.

What is tuberculosis?

“TB” is short for a disease called tuberculosis. TB is spread through the air from one person to another. TB germs are passed through the air when someone who is sick with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, laughs, sings, or sneezes. Anyone near the sick person with TB disease can breathe TB germs into their lungs.

TB germs can live in your body without making you sick. This is called latent TB infection. This means you have only inactive (sleeping) TB germs in your body. The inactive germs cannot be passed on to anyone else. However, if these germs wake up or become active in your body and multiply, you will get sick with TB disease.

When TB germs are active (multiplying in your body), this is called TB disease. These germs usually attack the lungs. They can also attack other parts of the body, such as, the kidneys, brain, or spine. TB disease will make you sick. People with TB disease may spread the germs to people they spend time with every day.

What are the symptoms?

If the TB disease is in your lungs, you may:

  • cough a lot,
  • cough up mucus or phlegm (“flem”),
  • cough up blood, or
  • have chest pain when you cough.

You should always cover your mouth when you cough!

If you have TB disease, you may also:

  • feel weak,
  • lose your appetite,
  • lose weight,
  • have a fever, or
  • sweat a lot at night.

These are symptoms of TB disease. These symptoms may last for several weeks. Without treatment, they usually get worse. If you get TB disease in another part of the body, the symptoms will be different. Only a doctor can tell you if you have TB disease.

TB Testing:

There are two tests that can be used to help detect TB infection: a TB skin test or a TB blood test. The skin test is used if you have a documented previous negative TB skin test. Otherwise, a TB blood test is used to test for TB infection.

If you are foreign-born and received the BCG vaccine, you will need a TB Blood Test.

Tell a Public Health Nurse if you have ever had a “positive” reaction to a TB skin test, TB blood test, or if you have been treated with TB drugs in the past. To tell if you have TB disease, other tests such as a chest x-ray and a sample of sputum (phlegm that is coughed up from deep in the lungs) may be needed.

Can TB be treated?

If you have TB infection, you may need medicine to prevent getting TB disease later. This is called “preventive” treatment. TB disease can also be treated by taking medicine. If you have TB disease, it is very important that you finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as you are told. If you stop taking the drugs too soon, you can become sick again. If you do not take the drugs correctly, the germs that are still alive may become difficult to treat with those drugs. It takes at least six months and possibly as long as one year to kill all the TB germs.

It is very important that you take your medicine as your doctor recommends.