Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease which usually affects the respiratory system although it can cause illness in other parts of the body.
A simple TB skin test (called a PPD) is one way to find out if you have a TB infection i.e. meaning that you have TB germs in your body. The test involves injecting some testing material, called tuberculin, under the skin on the inside of your forearm.
Another test for TB uses a blood sample; nursing staff will guide you in which test is appropriate for you. TB skin testing can be done at North Central Public Health District any day of the week except Thursdays (other schedules on holiday weeks).
Once the skin test is placed, you must return to the health department between 48 and 72 hours to have it read by a nurse. If there is no reaction to the test, the test is considered to be negative. You may have a bump where the tuberculin was injected. If so, the nurse will measure the size of the reaction in millimeters.
A positive reaction usually means that you have TB infection ie, you have been infected with the TB germ. It does not necessarily mean that you are ill with the disease. TB can remain dormant within your body for long periods of time, and may cause illness months or years after first being infected.
You will need to have a chest X-ray to help determine if you have an active infection. Persons with active TB disease in their lungs or respiratory system are contagious. After reviewing your medical history and chest X-ray, health department nurses or health officers (doctors) may discuss options for preventive treatment so that you don’t develop active TB from your exposure.
Treatment to prevent TB disease for those who are infected but not ill, or treatment of TB disease for those ill with TB will involve health department staff as well as your own physician as deemed appropriate.
Medications and diagnostic x-rays are available for those who have no health insurance or cannot otherwise afford these services.