Understanding Tuberculosis

What is TB?
Tuberculosis (TB) is disease caused by small germs (bacteria) that are breathed into the lungs. The bacteria are spread from person to person when someone who has the disease breathes the germs into the air (through coughing, sneezing, laughing, talking, etc.).

What are the two types of TB?
TB infection and TB disease.

What is TB infection?
A person with TB infection is NOT contagious because the germ is inactive or latent. The person does not know he or she is infected because no signs or symptoms are experienced.

What is TB disease?
A person with TB disease has the active germ within his or her body; therefore the person is contagious and may experience signs and symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms?
A person with TB disease may have any, all or none of the following symptoms:

  • cough that will not go away
  • feeling tired all the time
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • coughing up blood
  • night sweats

How is TB diagnosed?
There are two tests used to diagnose TB infection: TB skin test and TB blood test. Additional testing may be performed to determine active disease including a chest X-ray.

Is TB curable?
The disease is treatable and curable by taking and completing a medical treatment for a specified period of time.

For more information, visit our Tuberculosis Library.