Basic TB Facts

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

How TB Spreads

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

TB is NOT spread by

  • shaking someone’s hand
  • sharing food or drink
  • touching bed linens or toilet seats
  • sharing toothbrushes
  • kissing

Testing for TB Infection

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that is spread through the air from one person to another. There are two kinds of tests that are used to determine if a person has been infected with TB bacteria: the tuberculin skin test and TB blood tests.

A positive TB skin test or TB blood test only tells that a person has been infected with TB bacteria. It does not tell whether the person has latent TB infection (LTBI) or has progressed to TB disease. Other tests, such as a chest x-ray and a sample of sputum, are needed to see whether the person has TB disease.

Tuberculin skin test: The TB skin test (also called the Mantoux tuberculin skin test) is performed by injecting a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person given the tuberculin skin test must return within 48 to 72 hours to have a trained health care worker look for a reaction on the arm. The health care worker will look for a raised, hard area or swelling, and if present, measure its size using a ruler. Redness by itself is not considered part of the reaction.

The skin test result depends on the size of the raised, hard area or swelling. It also depends on the person’s risk of being infected with TB bacteria and the progression to TB disease if infected.

Positive skin test: This means the person’s body was infected with TB bacteria. Additional tests are needed to determine if the person has latent TB infection or TB disease. Follow-up testing, which usually includes a chest x-ray, is completed by a healthcare professional.

Negative skin test: This means the person’s body did not react to the test, and that latent TB infection or TB disease is not likely.

BCG Vaccine Information

BCG, or bacille Calmette-Guerin, is a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) disease. Many foreign-born persons have been BCG-vaccinated. BCG is used in many countries with a high prevalence of TB to prevent childhood tuberculous meningitis and miliary disease.

BCG is not generally recommended for use in the United States because of the low risk of infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the variable effectiveness of the vaccine against adult pulmonary TB, and the vaccine’s potential interference with tuberculin skin test reactivity. The BCG vaccine should be considered only for very select persons who meet specific criteria and in consultation with a TB expert.

Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) and BCG Vaccinations

BCG vaccination may cause a false-positive reaction to the TST. Please be sure to inform your physician/nurse if you have had a BCG vaccination prior to getting a TB skin test.

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Preventable Diseases and Immunizations

Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at risk for exposure to serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases. If you work directly with patients or handle material that could spread infection, you should get appropriate vaccines to reduce the chance that you will get or spread vaccine-preventable diseases. Protect yourself, your patients, and your family members. Make sure you are up-to-date with recommended vaccines.

Healthcare workers include physicians, nurses, emergency medical personnel, dental professionals and students, medical and nursing students, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, hospital volunteers, and administrative staff.

TDAP: Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis can be very serious diseases, even for adolescents and adults. Tdap vaccine can protect us from these diseases.

TETANUS (Lockjaw) causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness, usually all over the body.

  • It can lead to tightening of muscles in the head and neck so you can't open your mouth, swallow, or sometimes even breathe. Tetanus kills about 1 out of 5 people who are infected.

DIPHTHERIA can cause a thick coating to form in the back of the throat.

  • It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death.

PERTUSSIS (Whooping Cough) causes severe coughing spells, which can cause difficulty breathing, vomiting and disturbed sleep.

  • It can also lead to weight loss, incontinence, and rib fractures. Up to 2 in 100 adolescents and 5 in 100 adults with pertussis are hospitalized or have complications, which could include pneumonia or death.

These diseases are caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches, or wounds. Before vaccines, the United States saw as many as 200,000 cases a year of diphtheria and pertussis, and hundreds of cases of tetanus. Since vaccination began, tetanus and diphtheria have dropped by about 99% and pertussis by about 80%.

Tdap vaccine can protect adolescents and adults from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. One dose of Tdap is routinely given at age 11 or 12. People who did not get Tdap at that age should get it as soon as possible.

Tdap is especially important for healthcare professionals and anyone having close contact with a baby younger than 12 months.

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MMR

Measles, mumps, and rubella are serious diseases. Before vaccines they were very common, especially among children. All applicants seeking to volunteer with children/infant services are required to provide documentation of two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Measles

  • Measles virus causes rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation, and fever.
  • It can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures (jerking and staring), brain damage, and death.

Mumps

  • Mumps virus causes fever, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite, and swollen glands.
  • It can lead to deafness, meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord covering), painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and rarely sterility.

Rubella (German Measles)

  • Rubella virus causes rash, arthritis (mostly in women), and mild fever.
  • If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.

These diseases spread from person to person through the air. You can easily catch them by being around someone who is already infected.

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine can protect children (and adults) from all three of these diseases.

Thanks to successful vaccination programs these diseases are much less common in the U.S. than they used to be. But if we stopped vaccinating they would return.

Generally, anyone 18 years of age or older who was born after 1956 should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, unless they can show that they have either been vaccinated or had blood tests done that confirm immunity).

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INFLUENZA (FLU)

Influenza ("flu") is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every winter, usually between October and May. Flu is caused by the influenza virus, and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact.

Anyone can get flu, but the risk of getting flu is highest among children. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days. They can include:

  • fever/chills
  • sore throat
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • headache
  • runny or stuffy nose

Flu can make some people much sicker than others. These people include young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions - such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system. Flu vaccine is especially important for these people, and anyone in close contact with them.

Flu can also lead to pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. It can cause diarrhea and seizures in children.

Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized. Flu vaccine is the best protection we have from flu and its complications. Flu vaccine also helps prevent spreading flu from person to person.

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VARICELLA (CHICKENPOX)

Chickenpox (also called varicella) is a common childhood disease. It is usually mild, but it can be serious, especially in young infants and adults.

  • It causes a rash, itching, fever, and tiredness.
  • It can lead to severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage, or death.
  • The chickenpox virus can be spread from person to person through the air, or by contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters.
  • A person who has had chickenpox can get a painful rash called shingles years later.
  • Before the vaccine, about 11,000 people were hospitalized for chickenpox each year in the United States.
  • Before the vaccine, about 100 people died each year as a result of chickenpox in the United States.

People 13 years of age and older (who have never received chickenpox vaccine or have a blood test done that shows they are immune) should get two doses at least 28 days apart

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