TB is spread through the air from one person to another 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. Family members, roommates and close friends of the sick person are more likely to become infected than the general public. This is because they spend long periods of time together in enclosed spaces like a home or car. TB is not spread by shaking hands, kissing, sex, sharing plates, glasses, utensils, clothing, bedding or furniture.
Most people who become infected with TB do not get sick. Their bodies are able to fight the germs. This condition is known as latent TB infection (LTBI). People with LTBI cannot infect other people. However, without proper antibiotic treatment, the infection can progress to active TB disease.
A person with active TB disease may be infectious to others and must receive treatment for the condition. By law, physicians must report TB cases to the local health department. Both LTBI and TB disease require medical attention.
The purpose of the Tuberculosis (TB) Control Program is to prevent and control tuberculosis disease. Early identification and timely reporting of tuberculosis disease is essential in order to minimize the impact on the community and protect the public's health. Testing those at highest risk for tuberculosis infection is also important to identify and treat infected individuals before they develop the disease.
Health department TB control program services involve:
- Case management, including providing and directly observing that medication is taken;
- Case investigation, which means figuring out how the patient became infected and whether the disease has spread to others;
- Community interventions, which are steps to prevent the spread of the disease and include providing and monitoring preventive treatment and evaluating disease trends; and
- Community prevention measures, such as communication, coordination, education and promoting awareness among all health care providers and the general public.