Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. There are two phases: latent TB infection and active disease. Active TB disease most often affects the lungs, although it can involve any part of the body.
TB is spread through the air. Extended close contact with someone who has active, infectious TB disease is typically required for TB to spread. TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
TB is curable and can be prevented. Testing is simple. Treatment is free.
If you have questions about TB infection or disease, or for health care providers with inquiries about TB, call the TB Intake Line at 703‑246‑2433.
Fairfax County Health Department ensures that people with active TB receive effective and timely treatment and that contact investigations are performed to control the spread of TB. Treatment of TB disease, case management, laboratory testing, chest x-rays and medications are free services for Fairfax County residents.
The Health Department encourages testing of those at risk for TB exposure. Individuals at risk include those who spent time with someone who has or had TB disease; people from a country where TB disease is common such as most countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia; and people who work in high-risk settings or care for those at increased risk for TB. Individuals with diseases that weaken the immune system such as diabetes, renal disease or HIV infection should also be tested.
- The Health Department uses a blood test called the QuantiFERON® TB test (QFT) for everyone ages 5 years and older. The cost is $49.50; however, in most cases there is no charge if the test is for kindergarten through grade 12 school entry. The QFT requires a single visit to a Health Department clinic.
- The Health Department uses a tuberculin skin test (TST) for children less than 5 years old.
- If a TB test is positive this means that a person has been infected with the TB bacteria and has the potential of developing active TB in the future. A chest x-ray is required for positive TB test results, and this evaluation is available from the Health Department.
Learn more about TB testing and diagnosis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Treatment for TB Infection
- Preventive medication is prescribed for persons who test positive for TB infection as demonstrated by a positive blood or skin test, and who have no evidence of active TB disease. The medication is safe and effective. It must be taken as prescribed, every day, for four to nine months or one time per week for three months by directly observed therapy.
Treatment for TB Disease
- Active TB disease is also treatable with medications prescribed by a physician. Active TB disease is curable as long as the medications are taken as directed with close follow-up by the Health Department TB Team.
Treatment of TB infection and TB disease is free to all Fairfax County residents.
Learn more about TB treatment from CDC.