DeKalb Tuberculosis Program

The DeKalb County Board of Health TB Control Program is an outpatient clinic specializing in providing treatment for active Tuberculosis cases, conducts contact investigation and surveillance, and targeted testing and treatment of high-risk populations with Latent Tuberculosis Infection.

What is Tuberculosis (TB)?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs.  But, TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.  If not treated properly, TB disease can result in death.

Why is Tuberculosis still a problem in the United States?

Tuberculosis was once the leading cause of death in the United States.  However, with increased funding and attention to the TB problem, there has been a steady decline in the number of persons with TB since 1993.  But TB continues to be a problem.  Today, racial and ethnic minority populations and foreign-born individuals continue to account for a large number of TB cases in the United States.

How is it spread?

TB is spread through the air from one person to another.  The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings.  People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.  TB in the lungs or throat can be spread to other people.  TB in other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine or brain usually cannot be spread to others.

What is Latent TB Infection?

In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.  The bacteria become inactive, but they remain alive in the body and can become active later.  This is called latent TB infection.

What is active TB disease

TB bacteria become active if the immune system can’t stop them from growing.  The active bacteria begin to multiply in the body and cause active TB disease.

What is the difference between TB infection and TB disease?

People with TB infection have the germ that causes TB in their body.  They are not sick because the germ lies inactive in their body and they cannot spread the germ to others.  However, persons with TB infection may develop TB disease.  Medicine is often prescribed for persons with TB infection to prevent them from developing TB disease.

People with TB disease are sick from germs that are active in their body.  They usually have one or more of the symptoms of TB.  Symptoms include fever, a cough that lasts more than two weeks, coughing up blood, weight loss and feeling sick or weak.

How can I get tested or tell if I have TB?

Tuberculin Skin Test: Get a TB skin test.  This can be done at the DeKalb County Board of Health centers or by your personal physician.  A healthcare professional must check the skin test in two or three days.  Your body’s reaction to the test reveals whether or not you have been infected with the TB bacteria.

If the skin test is positive, you will be given other tests to see if you have TB infection or TB disease.

QuantiFeron TB Gold: These are new tests available that use a blood sample to find out if you are infected with TB bacteria.  The tests measure the response of TB proteins when they are mixed with a small amount of blood.  This can be done at the DeKalb County Board of Health, TB clinic, T.O. Vinson Laboratory for a fee.  Only one visit is required to draw blood for the test.

Chest x-ray: A chest x-ray service is made by exposing a film to x-rays that pass through the chest.  The DeKalb County Board of Health utilizes a new the state of the art digital x-ray machine.  A doctor can look at this film to see whether a TB bacterium has damaged the lungs.

What will happen if I have TB infection or disease?

If you have TB infection, you may need treatment to reduce the chance of developing TB disease.  If you have TB disease, there is good news!  It can almost always be treated and cured with medicine.  But the medicine must be taken as directed by your doctor or nurse.

Latent TB Infection and TB disease treatment, monitoring and education are provided by qualified physicians, nurses, outreach workers, x-ray technologist, and laboratory techs. Here at the DeKalb County Board of Health T.O. Vinson TB clinic.