Health

How to Stop the Spread of TB

Video by José Eli Villanueva
Martin was diagnosed with latent or inactive TB.

A third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis or TB.

That includes people in San Diego.

March 24 is World TB Day and the County Health and Human Services Agency is reminding San Diegans of two things:

  1. If you’ve been exposed to someone with TB, get tested now.
  2. If you’ve been diagnosed with latent or inactive TB, get treatment now.

“Tuberculosis is preventable and curable, but many people in San Diego and across the United States suffer from the disease,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “If you’ve been exposed to someone with TB, talk to your doctor or health clinic and request a TB blood test. That is the best way to know if you have been exposed to TB.”

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in the body. TB is most often found in the lungs. Tuberculosis germs are passed through the air when a person who is sick with the disease coughs, laughs or sneezes. Symptoms of active TB include persistent cough, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss.

Last year, 258 people were diagnosed with active TB in San Diego County. To date, 35 cases have been reported this year.

Furthermore, 2.3 million Californians have latent or inactive TB and 77 percent don’t know it. There are an estimated 170,000 San Diegans with latent or inactive TB.

When someone is diagnosed with latent TB, it means the person may already have the germ in the body but the bacteria is dormant. In other words, the person is not contagious… yet. Latent TB does not have symptoms and is not yet infectious, but without treatment, 5 to 10 percent of people infected with latent TB will develop active TB in their lifetimes. To raise awareness about the importance of latent TB testing and treatment, the County Health and Human Services Agency has developed a series of videos:

The first one, “What is TB” is in English and Spanish and explains how the disease is contracted and spread. “Finding TB: Investigating the Contagious Disease” takes a look at what the County does when someone is diagnosed with TB. One man who got treatment for latent TB, Martin, shares his story in the video above.

“People who are diagnosed with latent TB could develop the disease and infect others,” Wooten said. “You can take antibiotics for 3 or 4 months that can reduce your chances of becoming contagious.”

For more information, check the County TB Control website or call (619) 692-8621.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact