TB, or tuberculosis, is a disease caused by a bacteria named M. tuberculosis. This bacteria can infect any part of the body, but it most commonly affects the lungs. TB is spread through the air from one infected person to another.
There are two types, or stages, of TB. The first is latent, or inactive, TB. In latent TB, there are live TB bacteria inside a person, but that person is not sick. Someone with latent TB feels fine: no cough, no fever. Someone with latent TB cannot spread this infection.
About 10% of people with latent TB will progress to active TB. People with active TB are sick. They most commonly have cough and fever. People with active TB can spread this infection to other people. Active TB is a very serious, even life-threatening illness. In most of the world TB is common.
Because of the risk of latent TB progressing to active TB, doctors recommend that people with latent TB take a medication for several months. This medication reduces the chance of progression from latent to active TB. Most commonly this medicine is INH (isoniazid).
If you were born outside of the United States and have never had a skin test for TB, the University of Washington advises that you get one.
If you have symptoms that are similar to those of active tuberculosis (for example, cough for more than three weeks), you should make an appointment to be seen by a doctor. Contact the Hall Health Patient Service Center for an appointment.