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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Health Department
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Page updated Dec 19, 2014 3:55 PM

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What is TB?  

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine. A person with TB can die if they do not get treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of TB? 

The general symptoms of TB disease include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, chills, and night sweats. The symptoms of TB disease of the lungs also include coughing, chest pain, and the coughing up of blood. Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.

How is TB spread? 

TB germs are passed through the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, laughs, sings, or sneezes. Anyone nearby can breathe in these TB germs and can become infected; this is called latent TB infection. People with latent TB infection cannot pass TB germs to others. If left untreated, latent TB infection can turn into TB disease, which can be passed on to others.

What is the Difference Between Latent TB Infection and TB Disease? 

People with latent TB infection have TB germs in their bodies, but they are not sick because the germs are not active. These people do not have symptoms of TB disease, and they cannot spread the germs to others. However, they may develop TB disease in the future. They are often prescribed treatment to prevent them from developing TB disease.

People with TB disease are sick from TB germs that are active, meaning that they are multiplying and destroying tissue in their body. They usually have symptoms of TB disease. People with TB disease of the lungs or throat are capable of spreading germs to others. They are prescribed drugs that can treat TB disease.

How is TB Disease Treated?  

TB disease can be treated by taking several specific medications for 6 to 12 months. It is very important that people who have TB disease finish the medicine, and take the medications exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the medications too soon, they can become sick again; if they do not take them correctly, the germs that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat. In some situations, staff of the local health department meets regularly with patients who have TB to watch them take their medications. This is called directly observed therapy (DOT). DOT helps the patient complete treatment in the least amount of time.

Who Should Get Tested? 

  • People with symptoms of TB
  • People born in a country where TB is common (whether BCG is used or not)
  • Medical personnel
  • Young people entering school
  • People who live or have lived in shelters or other congregate settings
  • People who are or have been incarcerated

How Do You Get Tested for TB?  

  • Tuberculin Skin Test (TB Skin Test) (sometimes called a PPD): A health care worker administers the TB skin test on the person's arm. 48-72 hours (2-3 days) after the test, the health care worker checks the tested area of the arm for a specific type of reaction (the arm MUST be checked by the health care worker!).
  • A blood test for TB: This test may be used based upon your risk. Your healthcare provider will determine if this test is appropriate for you.

Where can I get tested for TB? 

  • Contact your healthcare provider OR 
  • Contact the Alexandria Health Department TB program, at 703-746-4960

Interested in more information? 

  • Contact the Alexandria Health Department TB Program at 703-746-4960
  • Visit the CDC’s TB web page


4480 King Street
Alexandria, VA, 22302
Fax: 703.746.4938

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Closed Thursday Mornings