Preventing Latent TB Infection from Progressing to TB Disease
Many people who have latent TB infection never develop TB disease. But some people who have latent TB infection are more likely to develop TB disease than others. Those at high risk for developing TB disease include:
- People with HIV infection
- People who became infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years
- Babies and young children
- People who inject illegal drugs
- People who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system
- Elderly people
- People who were not treated correctly for TB in the past
If you have latent TB infection and you are in one of these high-risk groups, you should take medicine to keep from developing TB disease. There are several treatment options for latent TB infection. You and your health care provider must decide which treatment is best for you. If you take your medicine as instructed, it can keep you from developing TB disease. Because there are less bacteria, treatment for latent TB infection is much easier than treatment for TB disease. A person with TB disease has a large amount of TB bacteria in the body. Several drugs are needed to treat TB disease.
Learn about TB Risk Factors.
Preventing Exposure to TB Disease While Traveling Abroad
In many countries, TB is much more common than in the United States. Travelers should avoid close contact or prolonged time with known TB patients in crowded, enclosed environments (for example, clinics, hospitals, prisons, or homeless shelters).
Although multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB are occurring globally, they are still rare. HIV-infected travelers are at greatest risk if they come in contact with a person with MDR or XDR TB.
Air travel itself carries a relatively low risk of infection with TB of any kind. Travelers who will be working in clinics, hospitals, or other health care settings where TB patients are likely to be encountered should consult infection control or occupational health experts. They should ask about administrative and environmental procedures for preventing exposure to TB. Once those procedures are implemented, additional measures could include using personal respiratory protective devices.
Travelers who anticipate possible prolonged exposure to people with TB (for example, those who expect to come in contact routinely with clinic, hospital, prison, or homeless shelter populations) should have a TB skin test or a TB blood test before leaving the United States. If the test reaction is negative, they should have a repeat test 8 to 10 weeks after returning to the United States. Additionally, annual testing may be recommended for those who anticipate repeated or prolonged exposure or an extended stay over a period of years. Because people with HIV infection are more likely to have an impaired response to TB tests, travelers who are HIV positive should tell their physicians about their HIV infection status.
For Health Care Providers
- TB Guidelines – Infection Control and Prevention
- Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of M. tuberculosis in Health-Care Settings (Slide set)
- Infection Control in Health Care Settings (Fact sheet)
- Respiratory Protection in Health Care Settings (Fact sheet)
- The Role of BCG Vaccine in the Prevention and Control of Tuberculosis in the United States (MMWR)