PreventionBy Mayo Clinic staff
If you test positive for latent TB infection, your doctor may advise you to take medications to reduce your risk of developing active tuberculosis. The only type of tuberculosis that is contagious is the active variety, when it affects the lungs. So if you can prevent your latent tuberculosis from becoming active, you won't transmit tuberculosis to anyone else.
Protect your family and friends
If you have active TB, keep your germs to yourself. It generally takes a few weeks of treatment with TB medications before you're not contagious anymore. Follow these tips to help keep your friends and family from getting sick:
- Stay home. Don't go to work or school or sleep in a room with other people during the first few weeks of treatment for active tuberculosis.
- Ventilate the room. Tuberculosis germs spread more easily in small closed spaces where air doesn't move. If it's not too cold outdoors, open the windows and use a fan to blow indoor air outside.
- Cover your mouth. Use a tissue to cover your mouth anytime you laugh, sneeze or cough. Put the dirty tissue in a bag, seal it and throw it away.
- Wear a mask. Wearing a surgical mask when you're around other people during the first three weeks of treatment may help lessen the risk of transmission.
Finish your entire course of medication
This is the most important step you can take to protect yourself and others from tuberculosis. When you stop treatment early or skip doses, TB bacteria have a chance to develop mutations that allow them to survive the most potent TB drugs. The resulting drug-resistant strains are much more deadly and difficult to treat.
In countries where tuberculosis is more common, infants often are vaccinated with bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine because it can prevent severe tuberculosis in children. The BCG vaccine isn't recommended for general use in the United States because it isn't very effective in adults, and it causes a false-positive result on a TB skin test. Researchers are working on developing a more effective TB vaccine.
- Questions and answers about tuberculosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/faqs/pdfs/qa.pdf. Accessed Oct. 16, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Oct. 16, 2012.
- Sterling TR, et al. Three months of rifapentine and isoniazid for latent tuberculosis infection. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;365:2155.
- Druszczynska M, et al. Latent M. tuberculosis infection - pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment and prevention strategies. Polish Journal of Microbiology. 2012;61:3.
- Coussens AK, et al. Vitamin D accelerates resolution of inflammatory responses during tuberculosis treatment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012;109:15449.
- Lawn SD, et al. Tuberculosis in antiretroviral treatment services in resource-limited settings: Addressing the challenges of screening and diagnosis. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2011;204:S1159.
- Tuberculosis. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs104/en/index.html. Accessed Oct.23, 2012.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2013: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-08373-7..00002-9&isbn=978-0-323-08373-7&about=true&uniqId=343863096-23. Accessed Oct. 16, 2012.