Tuberculosis Fact Sheets
Information for Providers
Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest diseases
Tuberculosis (TB) was once the leading cause of death in the United States and in Colorado. Currently one fourth of the world’s population has TB infection. In 2017, 10.0 million people around the world became sick with active TB disease and there were 1.3 million TB-related deaths worldwide.
TB Can Be Contagious
TB is caused by a germ called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB germs are spread through the air from one person to another. The TB germs are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these germs and become infected. Infection usually occurs when a healthy person and a person with active TB disease are in close contact in an enclosed space with little fresh air and over a long period of time. Even under these conditions, people often do not become infected.
TB is NOT spread by shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens, toilet seats or tissues, sharing toothbrushes or kissing. It can only be spread by breathing air containing TB germs.
A person’s body may kill all the TB germs; however, if the TB germs remain alive but inactive in the body, this is known as TB infection. People with TB infection are not sick and cannot make others sick, yet they may become sick in the future if they are not treated.
When the body is unable to keep the infection suppressed, the person may feel sick and can infect others – especially people they spend time with every day. This includes family members, friends, and coworkers or schoolmates. This is called active TB disease. People with active TB disease must receive treatment, or they will become very sick and can continue to infect others.
TB Can Be Cured
People with TB infection can take medication to prevent them from becoming sick and contagious. Those with activeTB disease can be cured however, if not treated properly activeTB disease can be fatal.
TB Patient Stories
Read some stories about people’s experiences with TB and learn what it is like to be impacted by the disease.