"TB" is short for tuberculosis. TB is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis which, most often, attack the lungs. Early detection and treatment can prevent this illness which may be fatal. Individuals most likely to acquire a TB infection are those who live or work in high risk settings or situations such as:
  • Health care workers or other employees in high risk congregate settings such as shelters, prisons, labs, etc.
  • Residents of high risk congregate settings
  • Travel to or arrival from high TB prevalence countries
  • Drug abusers (injection drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol abuse)
  • Exposure to someone known to have contagious tuberculosis
  • Persons with medical conditions that weaken their immune system 
  • As recommended by your doctor or local health department.

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If you think you may have been exposed to TB contact your doctor or local health department for a TB skin test or TB blood test.

How TB Spreads:
Tuberculosis is contagious and spreads through the air. When a person with active tuberculosis of the lungs coughs,sneezes, speaks, sings, or even breathes droplets are discharged that contain tuberculosis bacteria. People that inhale these droplets may become infected with tuberculosis and are reported as having a latent TB infection. Once the diseased droplets land they are rendered harmless and are no longer contagious.

Tuberculosis is not spread from:
  • Shaking hands or other casual contact
  • Sharing food or beverages with one another
  • Touching inanimate objects such as bed linens, clothing, toilet seats, etc.
  • Sharing personal articles such as toothbrushes or razors
  • Kissing or other intimate contact

Most often, individuals who are diagnosed with a TB infection cannot determine the source of the infection.
Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of TB:
Symptoms of active tuberculosis depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. Most often TB bacteria grow in the lungs and is called pulmonary TB. Symptoms of pulmonary TB include: 
  • A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
  • Coughing up blood or sputum
  • Chest Pain
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Other common symptoms of active TB include:
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever, chills, and night sweats
People who have a latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others. They are of no risk to their family, friends, or co-workers.

Diagnosis of TB:

Following a positive test for TB infection a physician will conduct a physical exam along with a thorough health history. This allows for the assessment of risk factors as well as symptoms suspicious for tuberculosis. To confirm suspicions a chest radiograph (x-ray) and sputum specimens will be taken.

Chest Radiograph (X-Ray):
A posterior-anterior chest x-ray is used to detect lung abnormalities. Lesions may appear anywhere in the lungs and may differ in size, shape, density, and cavitation. These abnormalities may suggest TB, but cannot be used to definitively diagnose TB. However, a chest x-ray can be used to rule out pulmonary tuberculosis in a person who has had a positive test reaction for TB infection without any symptoms such disease.

Diagnostic Microbiology:
The presence of acid-fast-bacteria (AFB) on a sputum smear or other specimen often indicates TB disease. Acid-fast specimens are easy and quick, but do not confirm a TB diagnosis because some acid-fast-bacteria are not M. tuberculosis. Therefore, a culture and DNA probe is done on all such specimens. A positive result for M. tuberculosis confirms a diagnosis of TB. 

Laboratories are compelled by law to report positive results on smears and cultures within 24 hours by telephone or fax to the individual's primary health care provider as well as to the State of Kansas TB control Division of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Treatment of Tuberculosis:
Treatment of TB is necessary in order to reduce the risk that a TB infection will progress to active disease, or to cure a person with active disease and eliminate the risk of spreading the illness. Treatment of tuberculosis is accomplished with the use of antibiotics.

Treatment for a Latent TB Infection: 
Persons with a latent TB infection are not sick, have no symptoms and cannot spread tuberculosis to others. However, they may develop active TB disease in the future. Treatment is recommended to cure the infection and assure that TB does not progress to an active contagious illness.
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A latent TB infection is most often treated with one antibiotic call Isoniazid or INH for short. The medication is usually taken daily for a period of 9 months. Although most individuals tolerate this medication well, vitamin B6 may also be recommended to minimize side effects. These prescriptions are available through your local health department at no cost. In addition, health department staff will monitor your progress on a monthly basis for the duration of the treatment.

Treatment of Active TB Disease:
Individuals with active tuberculosis are sick, have symptoms, and can spread the disease to others. Treatment lasts between 6 and 12 months and performed utilizing Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) whereby a public health clinician will observe the patient taking the medication daily.

Treatment of active TB is accomplished using a combination of antibiotics. Currently there are 10 drugs approved by the FDA for treatment of tuberculosis. The most common of these antibiotics are:
  • Isoniazid (INH)
  • Rifampin
  • Ethambutol, and
  • Pyrazinamide (PZA)
Regimens for treating active tuberculosis have an initial phase of 2 months followed by a continuation phase of 4 to 7 months. All medications are available through the local health department at no cost and a public health clinician monitors the status of the patient.

Treatment for active TB is mandatory and can be ordered by the local Health Officer or Administrator according to K.S.A. 65-129.