Tuberculosis, or TB, is an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body. Tuberculosis is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB in their lungs or throat cough, laugh, sneeze, sing or even talk, the germs that cause TB may spread into the air.
Anyone can get TB. Symptoms include a cough that will not go away, feeling tired all the time, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, coughing up blood and night sweats.
There is a difference between TB infection and having TB disease. Someone who is infected with TB has the TB bacteria, in their body, but they are not sick and they cannot spread TB to others. TB infection is discovered when a person has a positive skin test (also called a PPD). Someone with TB disease is sick and can spread the disease to other people, so they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Treatment for TB depends on whether a person has TB disease or only TB infection. A person who has become infected with TB but does not have TB disease may be given preventive therapy that aims to kill germs that are not doing any damage right now but could break out later. Preventive therapy is usually a daily dose of a medicine called isoniazid (also called INH). A person takes INH for nine months (up to one year for some patients). A person with TB disease is given more than one medication which is determined by the physician.
Skin testing (PPD)
Skin testing, known as PPD, is available to those with symptoms of TB, a positive tine test, or contact to someone with active TB disease. It takes two appointments for the skin test to be done. One appointment is to place the test and a follow-up appointment two to four days later is to evaluate (or check) the test.
All nursing and physician appointments and consultations are free of charge to the client. Some tests are billed to the client’s insurance. Clinics are by appointment only.
Follow-up care for individuals with positive skin tests (PPDs) includes: nursing interview; chest X-ray; doctor’s evaluation. The Erie County Department of Health has apulmonologist, or lung specialist, available two times a month to discuss care, treatment and recommendations. The Department of Health strives to accomplish TB treatment in a timely and convenient manner.
Chest X-rays will be ordered for persons with positive skin tests (PPDs). If your insurance does not cover these expenses, the county will cover the cost and request that you have your X-ray done at Chest Diseases of Northwestern PA, 3580 Peach Street, Erie.
Sputum cultures for the TB germ may be ordered, if the client is coughing.
Blood work is done prior to starting any TB medications, as a safety measure. If medications are prescribed, you are expected to return monthly for health monitoring by a public health nurse to insure consistent and appropriate treatment.
Our outreach worker is available to assist with transportation to and from the clinic and to facilitate treatment of active TB cases.