Tuberculosis Control Program

Tuberculosis (TB) has been declining in the United States for the past decade. However, there is still concern of the emergence of multiple drug-resistant TB, making Public Health's role in identification and follow-up even more important.

What Is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria and is spread by very small respiratory droplets created when a person coughs, talks, or sneezes. Only persons with an active case of TB can spread the disease. Many people have been infected with TB, but have never shown symptoms of the disease. These people are not contagious. The only way to determine if a person has been infected with TB is by doing a TB skin test.

Common Symptoms of Active TB

  • Productive (wet) cough lasting more than 3 weeks (with or without blood)
  • Fatigue (feeling tired)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pain
  • Fever

Who Should Be Tested

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider. You should get tested if you know you have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with TB. The likelihood of developing an active TB infection is the greatest in the first two years after exposure.

TB Skin Testing

Public Health offers TB skin testing by appointment and the test is very simple. After 48 to 72 hours, you will need to return to the clinic to have the skin test evaluated by a nurse.

Positive TB Testing

If your TB test is positive, you will be referred for a chest x-ray. Looking at the x-ray and considering other indicators, the physician will determine if you have active disease.

Active disease will require that medications be taken for 6 to 9 months and a sample of your sputum (phlegm you cough up) will be sent to a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis and determine the degree of contagiousness.

If the physician determines that you are infected with TB, but do not have active disease, you will also be asked to take medications daily for 9 months. These medications are critical in stopping the spread of TB in our community.

Follow-up

Public Health is involved in finding out where and how each person may have become infected and to whom they may have spread the disease to. All contacts will be identified and asked to be tested. Persons with active disease will be isolated until they are considered no longer contagious. All TB patients can obtain all their medications free of charge through the Oregon Health Authority. Each person on medication receives education concerning the medication and side effects. All TB patients are given directly observed therapy. Public Health works very closely with each client's physician to keep each person healthy and on track with their treatment.