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Frequently Asked Questions
What is TB?
TB is short for tuberculosis, a disease caused by a bacteria that is
spread through the air. It usually affects the lungs, but may damage
other parts of the body as well and cause serious illness. People catch
TB from someone who already has it - no one is born with it. Anyone, of
any nationality or age, can get TB, and without treatment, they can
die. The good news is that with proper medication, TB can be
|How is TB spread?
||TB is spread through the air from one
person to another. The bacteria get into the air when a person with TB
disease of the lungs or throat coughs, shouts, sings, or sneezes.
People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. You may
have been exposed to TB if you spent a lot of time near someone with TB
disease of the lungs or throat. Most people get TB from a family
member, spouse, friend, or close coworker. You are not likely to
get TB from someone coughing in a restaurant or on a bus. And, it is
not spread by shaking hands or sharing dishes, drinking glasses,
View transmission of TB
What are the signs and symptoms of TB?
A person with TB disease may feel some or all of these general
Symptoms of TB of the lungs may include bad cough (lasting longer than
2 weeks), chest pain or spitting up blood. Other symptoms depend on the
particular part of the body that is affected.
How can I tell if I have TB?
First, get a TB skin test. This is the only way to tell if you have
TB infection. If it is positive, you will be given other tests to see
if you have TB infection or TB disease.
What is the difference between TB infection and TB
People with TB infection (without disease) have the germ that
causes TB in their body. They may have been carrying this germ for a
short or a very long time, but they are not sick because the
germ lies inactive in the body. The body's strong immune system has the
germs under control. While the TB germs are inactive in your body, they
cannot hurt you and you cannot spread them to other people. In fact, if
you are infected by the TB germs, you probably will not know it and you
will not feel sick.
However, there is always the possibility that you may develop TB
disease sometime in the future, when body defenses become weakened.
Therefore, medicine is often prescribed to prevent TB disease from
People with TB disease are sick from TB germs that are
active in their body. It is possible to get TB disease shortly
after the germs enter the body. And, it is also possible for inactive
TB germs which have been in the body for many years to suddenly break
loose and attack the lungs or other parts of the body.
People with TB disease usually have one or more of the symptoms of
TB. They are often able to give the infection to others. Permanent body
damage and death can result from this very serious disease, so it is
important to get medical attention.
What is the tuberculin skin test?
The tuberculin skin test tells if TB germs are in the body. A small
amount of harmless fluid will be put just under the skin on your arm.
Two or three days later you must return to the clinic to have your arm
checked for a reaction. (The skin test must be repeated if you are not
able to return to the clinic within 3 days.) If there is a reaction,
the size of the reaction is measured.
What do the tuberculin skin test results
If there is little or no change to the spot on your arm, it usually
means that TB germs have not entered your body. This is called a
negative reading, and you will be given a TB clearance card.
If a bump about the size of a pencil eraser or bigger appears on
your arm, this means that you probably are infected with TB germs. It
is a positive reading, but it does not necessarily mean that you
have TB disease. It is very important that you have other tests and/or
a medical evaluation to see if TB disease is present.
View positive skin test
If you are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, your body
may not react to a TB skin test, and the health worker may give you
What does the chest x-ray show?
If TB disease is present, it is probably in the lungs. If your skin
test is positive, you will be asked to get a chest x-ray on the day of
your skin test reading. A chest x-ray takes a picture of the lungs and
shows the doctor if there are any signs there of TB.
View an abnormal X-ray
At the State TB Program, your waiting time for the x-ray will depend
on the number of people ahead of you. After your chest x-ray, you will
be given instructions to return to the clinic in four (4) working days
to get your results. If your chest x-ray results are suspicious, it
means that further tests need to be done to rule out active TB
A normal result means that the TB germs are inactive and TB disease
is not present. The clearance card will be issued and you will be
notified by letter if preventive therapy is recommended for you.
Who should get tested for TB?
- People who have had exposure to someone who has active TB disease
- People who have symptoms of TB
- People who are required to for employment or school (see State TB Testing Rules)
- People who have weak immunity or certain medical conditions
- People newly arrived to Hawai'i who are immigrants, refugees, elderly, or students from countries
where TB is common
|How is TB Cured?
||There are medicines to fight TB. These
may be pills, liquid to drink or shots. To cure TB, follow your
doctor's advice and take your medication exactly as prescribed. If you
stop too soon, the germs can come back even stronger than before, and
you can give them to your family and friends. Take all the pills
the doctor gives you. Anti-TB drugs only work when you take
How does HIV infection affect TB?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus, the AIDS virus) helps TB germs
make you sick by attacking the germ fighters in your body. If you are
infected with HIV and with TB germs, you have a very big chance of
getting TB disease. The TB germs are much more likely to attack your
lungs and other parts of the body. You can be cured, but it takes
longer to cure someone with TB disease who also has HIV infection.
If you think you might have HIV infection, talk to your doctor about
getting an HIV test. If you have HIV infection and TB infection, the
sooner you start taking anti-TB medicine, the better your chances to
If you have HIV infection, it is very important to get tested for TB
infection at least once a year. Anti-TB drugs are strong. They can
prevent or cure TB disease even in people with HIV infection.
What should I do if I have TB
If you have TB infection, you need treatment so you will not get TB
disease later. This is called preventive therapy. Isoniazid (INH) is
the anti-TB drug used most often.
Unless you get preventive treatment, TB infection can turn into TB
disease. Anyone who is infected can develop TB disease, but those who
are more likely include:
- Substance abusers
- People with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, certain
types of cancers and being underweight; and especially
- People with HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS).
These things make your body weaker. When your body is weaker, it
can't fight TB germs effectively any longer.
It is very important that you take your preventive treatment as your
doctor recommends. It takes nine months to kill all the TB germs.
Remember, you will always have TB germs in your body unless you kill
them with the right medicine.
|What if I move before
I finish my medication?
||Ask a health worker where you should go
to get the rest of your medicine. The local health department or your
private doctor will make sure you get the medicine you need. Protect
your family and friends from TB take all your anti-TB drugs!
What can I expect at the clinic?
- At Lanakila Health Center, TB clinic visits are first come, first
serve. Waiting time for each visit will depend on the number of
patients ahead of you.
- A visit for a TB skin test may take 30 minutes. A visit for a chest
x-ray may take one hour or more. If you are on TB medication, you will
need to return monthly for an evaluation and for a medication
- A parent or legal guardian must always accompany minor children
(under age 18).
Hawaii Tuberculosis Control Program
(Temporarily Moved to Pearl City)
(Scheduled to Move Back to 1700 Lanakila Avenue on 5/28/2013)
2385 Waimano Home Road, Building 4
Pearl City, HI 96782
Phone: (808) 832-5731 Fax: (808) 832-5846
TB Info Line: (808) 832-5738