Treating Latent TB Infection

Diverse group of doctors standing in front of a building

Health care personnel diagnosed with latent TB infection are strongly encouraged to receive treatment.

Not everyone infected with tuberculosis (TB) bacteria becomes sick.  As a result, there are two types of TB conditions: TB disease and latent TB infection.  People with latent TB infection have TB bacteria in their bodies, but they do not feel sick, do not have symptoms, and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.

Without treatment people with latent TB infection can get sick with TB disease. Treatment of latent TB infection is essential to controlling and eliminating TB in the United States because it substantially reduces the risk that latent TB infection will progress to TB disease.

Health care personnel in a meeting
Updated recommendations for health care personnel include annual education on the risks, signs and symptoms of TB.

Updated TB Recommendations for Health Care Personnel

CDC and the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association (NTCA) recently updated TB screening and treatment recommendations for United States health care personnel. The updated recommendations reflect the overall decrease of TB cases and the low incidence of TB among health care personnel in the United States due to occupational exposure.  These recommendations should be used for people who work or volunteer in health care settings. These recommendations strongly encourage health care personnel to receive treatment for latent TB infection if diagnosed.

Highlights of the updated recommendations include:

  • Health care personnel should be screened for TB upon hire/pre-placement.
  • No annual TB testing for most health care personnel unless there is a known exposure or ongoing transmission in a health care setting.
  • Treatment for latent TB infection is strongly encouraged.
  • All health care personnel should receive annual TB education.

TB education should include information on TB risk factors, the signs and symptoms of TB disease, and TB infection control policies and procedures for the facility.   TB education materials can be found through CDC, the TB Centers of Excellence for Training, Education, and Medical ConsultationNTCAexternal iconState TB Programs, and the CDC’s Find TB Resources website.

Health care facilities might consider using serial TB screening for certain groups at increased occupational risk for TB exposure (e.g., pulmonologists or respiratory therapists) or in certain settings if transmission has occurred in the past (e.g., emergency departments). Facilities should work with their state and local health departments to help make these decisions.

Health care provider holding a bottle of pills
Treatment for latent TB infection is strongly encouraged for health care personnel. Shorter course regimens are available.

Treatment of Latent TB Infection for Health Care Personnel

Treatment for latent TB infection is strongly encouraged for health care personnel. Shorter course latent TB infection treatment regimens that are three to four months in duration are encouraged over the longer six- or nine-month treatment regimens because they are easier for people to complete.

If health care personnel have untreated latent TB infection, they should be screened annually for symptoms of TB disease. Symptoms of TB disease include any of the following: a cough lasting longer than three weeks, unexplained weight loss, night sweats or a fever, and loss of appetite.

As state and local TB screening and testing regulations may differ based on local needs, the updated recommendations do not override or replace state regulations.  CDC encourages facilities with questions about TB regulations in their state to contact their state TB control program.  CDC has developed materials to assist organizations with the new recommendations including: Frequent Asked Questions, infographic, pdf icon[313 KB] whiteboard video, and a baseline risk assessment form.pdf icon[254 KB]

Page last reviewed: August 6, 2019