What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The tuberculosis bacteria can be spread by very small secretion droplets when a person coughs, talks, sneezes, or sings. Only persons with an active case of TB can spread disease. Many people have been exposed to the TB bacteria but have never had symptoms of active disease. These people are not contagious. The only way to confirm that a person has been exposed to TB is by the TB test. A chest x-ray reveals if there are any changes in the lungs due to illness.
The most common symptoms of active TB are:
- Productive cough lasting more than 3 weeks (with or without blood)
- Loss of weight
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
Who Should Be Tested?
If you are experiencing a cough, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, fatigue or fever you may want to get tested. You should get tested if you know you have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with TB. The likelihood of becoming active with TB in the first two years after exposure is the greatest.
TB Skin Testing
Health Services offers TB skin testing by appointment. The test is very simple and appointments take only 10 minutes. After 2-3 days you will return to the clinic to have the skin test looked at and interpreted by a nurse. To make a TB test appointment, call: 541-322-7400.
Positive TB Tests
If your TB test is positive you will be asked to contact your physician who will order a chest x-ray and do a physical assessment. From the x-rays and other indicators the physician will determine if you have active disease or if you have just been exposed.
Active disease will require multiple medications to be taken daily from 6-9 months, and a sample of your sputum (spit) will be sent to a laboratory in order to determine which drugs will be most effective.
If the physician determines that you are infected with TB but do not have active disease you will also be asked to take medications on a regular basis for 6 or 9 months. These medications are critical to stopping the spread of TB in our community.
Health Services is involved in finding out where each person may have become infected and to whom they may have passed the bacteria. All contacts will be identified and asked to be tested. Persons with active disease will be kept isolated until they have completed a full two weeks of drug therapy. Persons who qualify can obtain all their medications free of charge through the State Health Division. Each person on medication receives education concerning the medications and side-effects. For individuals with active TB, a public health nurse will arrange for directly observed therapy on a daily basis while on medications. Health Services works very closely with each client's physician to keep each person healthy and on track with their treatment.
For more information, please visit the Oregon Department of Human Services website pages on TB control at http://www.ohd.hr.state.or.us/tb/