Testing for Tuberculosis (TB) Infection
There are two types of tests used to detect tuberculosis infection: the TB skin test and the TB blood test. A health care provider will decide which test is appropriate. A positive test result indicates that a person is infected with TB bacteria. It does not tell whether a person has a latent TB infection or has TB disease. Other tests, such as a chest x-ray, must be used to determine if a person has TB disease.
The Health Department provides testing only for people who have been identified as contacts of a case of active TB disease.If you need TB testing for school or work, contact your primary care provider or an occupational health services provider.
Who should be tested?
Certain people have a higher risk of TB infection and should be tested. People should be tested if they:
Are from a country where TB disease is common, including Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia
Have had close contact over time with a person who has active TB disease
Live or work in a high-risk setting such as long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, or correctional facilities
Work with patients who have an increased risk for TB
TB tests are usually not needed for people who have a low risk of infection.
The TB skin test is performed by injecting a small amount of fluid, known as tuberculin, into the skin. A health care provider will examine the injection site within 48 to 72 hours to determine if it is a positive result. Additional tests are needed to distinguish between a latent TB infection and TB disease.
A health care provider will draw a patient’s blood and send it to a laboratory for analysis. If the result is positive, this means that the person is infected with TB. It does not distinguish between a latent TB infection and TB disease.
A health care provider should evaluate anyone who has TB symptoms or a positive TB test result for TB disease. If a person has a negative TB test result, but still has symptoms, they should still be evaluated for TB.
Latent Tuberculosis (TB) Infection
A person is diagnosed with a latent TB infection if they have a positive TB test but a medical evaluation does not indicate TB disease. A health care provider will decide whether to treat a latent TB infection based on an individual’s risk factors.
Tuberculosis (TB) Disease
TB is diagnosed through many tests including a physical examination, medical history, and a chest x-ray. If someone is diagnosed, their health care provider will recommend multiple medications.
TB disease should be suspected in people with any symptoms of TB, including loss of appetite, night sweats, fever, and fatigue.
Symptoms of a TB infection in the lungs (pulmonary TB) include chest pain, coughing for longer than three weeks, and coughing up blood. Symptoms in other parts of the body will depend upon what area is affected.
TB Testing MMWRs (CDC)
Diagnosis & Treatment (Rutger’s Global Tuberculosis Institute)