Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacteria spread through the air when an individual with infectious TB disease coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Transmission occurs when others breathe in the bacteria while in close and prolonged contact with a person with infectious TB disease. TB is the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19. Fortunately, it can be prevented, treated, and cured.
If you have any of the symptoms listed, go see a doctor to find out if you have TB.
Symptoms can include:
- Cough that lasts more than 2-3 weeks
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
Before you become sick with TB disease, there is a period of time when you have no symptoms even though TB bacteria are dormant inside your body. This is called latent TB infection (LTBI). Latent TB infection is not contagious.
When your body can no longer prevent the bacteria from growing, it will multiply and cause TB disease. Individuals with LTBI may become sick with TB disease within weeks to many years after becoming infected. Overall, 5-10% of people with LTBI develop TB disease over their lifetime; this risk is higher for those with risk factors for progression from LTBI to TB disease, such as undernutrition, HIV infection, and diabetes . Certain behaviors, such as alcohol and smoking, also increase an individual’s risk for developing TB disease. If treatment is delayed, TB disease can cause serious illness and death.
TB Cases and Rates
In 2021, Santa Clara County had the third highest case rate among all California jurisdictions, after Imperial and San Francisco counties. TB cases occurred predominantly among Asian and Hispanic populations, with a small percentage in White and African-American/African populations. About 91% of TB cases occurred among persons born outside the U.S., primarily from the following countries: Vietnam, India, the Philippines, China, and Mexico.
Testing for Tuberculosis
To significantly decrease the number of people with TB disease, more individuals with risk factors for TB should be tested and treated. BCG vaccines are given in countries where TB is common. People who have had the BCG vaccine can still get latent TB infection and TB disease. If you think that your TB skin test might be positive due to a BCG vaccine, you should consider having a TB blood test. The TB blood test is never positive because of the BCG vaccine
Testing is recommended for:
- People who have spent time with someone who has TB disease
- People from a country where TB disease is common (most countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia)
- People who live or work in high-risk settings (for example: correctional facilities, long-term care facilities or nursing homes, and homeless shelters)
- Health-care workers who care for patients at increased risk for TB disease
- Infants, children and adolescents exposed to adults who are at increased risk for latent tuberculosis infection or TB disease
Your doctor can test you for latent TB infection with a blood or skin test. If you do not have a doctor, these community health centers can provide testing.
You can take medicine to kill the TB bacteria so you don’t get sick with TB disease. Treatment for latent TB infection can lower your risk of developing TB disease by over 90%. Talk with your doctor about treatment for latent TB infection.
Treatment options include:
- Two medications (Isoniazid and Rifapentine) daily for 3 months.
- One medication (Rifampin) daily for 4 months.
- One medication (Isoniazid) daily for 9 months.