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How Can I Keep from Spreading TB?

The most important way to keep from spreading TB is to take all your medicine, exactly as told by your doctor or nurse. You should also keep all of your clinic appointments! Your doctor or nurse needs to see how you are doing. You may need another chest x-ray or a test of the phlegm you may cough up. These tests will show whether the medicine is working. They will also show whether you can still give TB bacteria to others. Be sure to tell the doctor about anything you think is wrong.

If you are sick enough with TB to go to a hospital, you may be put in a special room. These rooms use air vents that keep TB bacteria from spreading. People who work in these rooms must wear a special face mask to protect themselves from TB bacteria. You must stay in the room so that you will not spread TB bacteria to other people. Ask a nurse if you need anything that is not in your room. After tests show that you do not cough out TB bacteria, you will be allowed to leave the special room.

If you are infectious while you are at home, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself and others near you. Your doctor may tell you to follow these guidelines to protect yourself and others:

  • The most important thing is to take your medicine.
  • Always cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.
  • Put the tissue in a closed paper sack and throw it away.
  • Do not go to work or school.
  • Separate yourself from others and avoid close contact with anyone.
  • Sleep in a bedroom away from other family members.
  • Air out your room often (if it is not too cold outside). TB spreads in small closed spaces where air doesn't move. Put a fan in your window to blow out (exhaust) air that may be filled with TB bacteria. If you open other windows in the room, the fan also will pull in fresh air. This will reduce the chances that TB bacteria stay in the room and infect someone who breathes the air.

Remember, TB is spread through the air. People cannot get infected with TB bacteria through handshakes, sitting on toilet seats, or sharing dishes and utensils with someone who has TB.

After you take medicine for about 2 or 3 weeks, you may no longer be able to spread TB bacteria to others. If your doctor or nurse agrees, you will be able to go back to your daily routine. Remember, you will get well only if your take your medicine exactly as your doctor or nurse tells you. Think about people who may have spent time with you, such as family members, close friends, and coworkers. The local health department may need to test them for Latent TB Infection(LTBI). TB is especially dangerous for children and people with HIV infection. If infected with TB bacteria, these people need LTBI treatment right away to keep from developing TB disease.