Tuberculosis, or TB, is a serious disease. With proper care and treatment, TB can be prevented and cured.
There is a difference between TB infection and active TB disease. TB infection means that TB bacteria are living in the body but not causing any symptoms. People with TB infection do not feel sick and cannot spread the disease. Symptoms of TB disease may include weight loss, a persistent cough lasting longer than three weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or phlegm, loss of appetite, chills, fever or night sweats. TB disease is spread from person to person through the air, and usually affects the lungs.
When a person who is sick with TB coughs, sneezes, or sings, they put TB germs in the air. Other people may breathe in the TB germs, and some may become sick. People usually get TB germs in their bodies only when they spend a long time around someone who is sick with TB — for example, if they live or work with someone with TB. Brief contact with people who are sick with TB (such as on trains or buses) is unlikely to give a person TB. TB is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food or through sexual activity. Most people do not know they have TB until they become sick. That is why it is a good idea for people at high risk for TB to get tested. An individual should get tested if the person has:
The Health Department offers free and confidential treatment for TB at four state-of-the-art TB clinics. Treatment is available regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.
For more information, call 311 or search “TB” at www.nyc.gov.