Although tuberculosis (TB) is uncommon in the United States, about 1 in 3 people around the world are infected with it. TB is a bacterial infection that spreads through the air when infected people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is not spread through casual contact.
TB usually affects the lungs but can attack any part of the body, including the kidneys, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB can be fatal. Certain groups of people, such as those with weakened immune systems, are at a very high risk of developing TB disease once infected.
Signs and symptoms of TB
- Cough for more than 3 weeks
- Night sweats
- Unintentional weight loss
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in the sputum
TB testing and treatment in Snohomish County
Controlling TB is one of the important functions of public health in Washington State. The Snohomish Health District Tuberculosis Control Program actively seeks out and offers testing to people who have been exposed to TB. Our goal is to help diagnose and treat people with TB as well as prevent the spread of the disease within our community.
We also help healthcare providers identify and treat TB. See our Treating Tuberculosis page for special workshops and reporting requirements.
Contact us if you:
- Have the signs and symptoms of TB
- Are a health care provider and have a client you suspect may have TB
- Believe you have been exposed recently to a person with TB
- Tested positive for TB through a skin test for the first time and do not know what to do
- Have questions about tuberculosis
Snohomish Health District TB services
- Diagnosis and treatment of individuals who either have or are suspected of having TB
- Screening of foreign-born refugees immigrating to Snohomish County
- Consultation to health care providers in the community
- Case management for people diagnosed with TB
- Education about TB for clients, family members, and groups
- Investigations to ensure that people who have been exposed to TB are offered screening if needed
What does a positive TB test mean?
TB testing is often required for work and school as well as immigration to the United States. A TB skin test takes only a few minutes to administer, but you must return within 3 days to have the test “read” by a medical provider to find out results. Two blood tests are also used to test for TB: QuantiFERON and T-SPOT.
A positive TB skin test means that you have been exposed to someone with active TB and have TB infection. You must go to a doctor or clinic for further evaluation, including a chest x-ray. Sputum sample testing will be done if you are suspected of having active TB in the lung. Medication is highly recommended to treat the infection and prevent TB from becoming active.
It is recommended that the following groups of people be screened for TB:
- Have been in close contact with someone who has an active case of TB
- Work in healthcare or an occupation that brings you in close contact with people who may have active TB
- Entered a drug and or alcohol treatment program
- Have a disease or condition that weakens your immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS
- Come from, have lived in, or traveled for a period of time in a foreign country in which TB is more common
Where do I get a TB skin test?
You should contact your local healthcare provider for these tests. Some U.S. Healthworks clinics offer tuberculin skin tests, but please visit www.ushealthworks.com for more information.
If you don't have a healthcare provider, go to the Washington Connections database: https://www.washingtonconnections.org/home
Washington Connections is a statewide database to assist individuals and families find a variety of services based on income.
Active TB is treated by taking several drugs, usually for 6 to 9 months. You must take the drugs exactly as prescribed and finish the medication to prevent becoming sick again and gaining a resistance to the drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is more difficult and expensive to treat. Snohomish Health District staff will sometimes observe patients with active TB as they take each dose to ensure that TB treatment is followed.
Most people exposed to TB are able to fight the bacteria naturally and never get ill. People with this latent TB infection do not have symptoms and cannot spread the bacteria to others; however, treatment is necessary to prevent the bacteria from becoming active TB and spreading to others. The Snohomish Health District will treat latent TB in family members and close contacts of people we are treating for active TB.
We also treat latent TB in refugees and asylees who were exposed to the bacteria before coming to the United States. All immigrants and refugees applying for a U.S. immigrant visa must complete a medical exam that includes screening for TB. Each year, we screen approximately 150 people who are moving to Snohomish County.