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Tuberculosis (TB) is transmitted by infected people spreading bacteria through air particles. While the bacteria often find its way into the lungs, it can also attack the kidney, spine and brain. If you think that you have a case of TB, we’re ready with the testing and guidance you need to get better fast.


There are two different tests – the TB skin test (TST) and TB blood tests to detect TB.

TB Blood Test: This test uses a blood sample to see if you have been infected with TB. This test can be done within one appointment and results are available in a few days.

  • Positive TB blood test: You have been infected with TB germs. Additional tests are now necessary to determine whether you have latent TB infection (LTBI) or TB disease.
  • Negative TB blood test: Your blood did not react to the test. You likely do not have TB infection.

TB Skin test: The skin on the lower part of your arm will be injected with a small amount of testing fluid. Two to three days later, your skin test will be read by a member of the MedExpress team. You may have swelling, which will also be measured by a member of our team to determine the result of the test.

  • Positive TB skin test: You have been infected with TB germs. Additional tests are now necessary to determine whether you have latent TB infection (LTBI) or TB disease.
  • Negative TB skin test: Your skin did not react to the test. You likely do not have TB infection.

If your exposure to TB germs was recent, your TB skin test reaction may not be positive yet. A second skin test should be taken eight to ten weeks after you have come into contact with someone infected with TB. If your second test is negative, you probably don’t have TB.

Note: A positive TB skin test or TB blood test can only inform your provider if you’ve been infected. If a person is infected with TB bacteria, other tests are needed to see if the person has latent TB infection or TB disease.

At many companies, a TB pre-screening may be required before employment. Check with your employer to determine which test they require.

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What is Tuberculosis (TB)?

Tuberculosis is the result of a bacterium known as mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can attack the lungs, the kidney, spine and brain. There are two different conditions: LTBI and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

Tuberculosis is preventable and treatable. However, it remains the deadliest infectious-disease killer in the world.1 While the number of cases in the U.S. have been the lowest on record, there were still 8,333 reported cases in 2022. The CDC estimates that up to 13 million people in the United States are living with latent TB infection.2

Who is at the most risk for getting TB? While anyone can get TB, there are several groups of people who are higher risk for contracting it: 1

  • Those who have come into contact with someone who has TB
  • Those born in or who frequently travel to Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, China, Haiti, Guatemala and other countries with high rates of TB
  • Health care workers
  • Those who work or live in shelters for unhoused persons, jails and nursing homes

Do you need a vaccine before traveling? No. There is a vaccine for TB disease called Bacille Calmette-Gurin (BCG). It is not generally recommended in the U.S. due to its limited effectiveness for preventing TB.1

There are some things you can do to protect yourself, as TB is much more common in other countries. You should avoid close contact or spending prolonged time with potentially infected people in crowded, enclosed places. However, there is a low risk of infection with air travel.3

Travelers who anticipate prolonged exposure to TB-infected people before leaving the U.S. should get a TST or TB blood test, which is available at MedExpress. If the test is negative, they should repeat it eight to ten weeks after coming back to the U.S. For those who anticipate repeated or prolonged exposure or an extended multi-year stay out of the country, annual TB testing is recommended by the CDC.3

Do children need to be vaccinated? No. As mentioned above, the BCG vaccine is generally not used in the U.S. due to its limited effectiveness.1

What are the Symptoms of TB?

woman coughing on couchThe symptoms of TB depend on where TB bacteria has grown within the infected person’s body. As TB is most often found in the lungs, the common symptoms are:4

  • A cough that lasts for three weeks or more
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up large amounts of phlegm or blood

Other symptoms may include: 4

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

Symptoms of TB in other parts of the body include:1

  • Kidney: Blood in the urine
  • Brain: Headache or confusion
  • Spine: Back pain
  • Throat: Hoarseness

Is TB Contagious?

Yes. TB is spread from one person to another when the TB bacteria gets in the air through coughing, speaking or singing. People around them can be infected by breathing in this TB bacteria. If you are infected with TB, you can spread it to those you spend time with every day.5

It is not spread by:5

  • Shaking hands
  • Kissing
  • Sharing food, drink or toothbrushes
  • Toilet seats

TB can be a worrisome condition. To ensure that you have peace of mind, are healthy and not infecting anyone else, visit your neighborhood MedExpress. We can quickly get you tested and back to feeling better.


1. CDC. Questions and Answers About Tuberculosis. Last updated October 2, 2023. Accessed November 15, 2023.

2. CDC. Tuberculosis Data and Statistics. Last updated November 15, 2023. Accessed November 15, 2023.

3. CDC. TB Information for International Travelers Fact Sheet. Last updated December 17, 2020. Accessed November 15, 2023.

4. CDC. Tuberculosis Signs and Symptoms. Last updated February 14, 2023. Accessed November 15, 2023.

5. CDC. How TB Spreads. Last updated May 3, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2023.


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