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About Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by a slow-growing germ, most often in the lungs. TB is not gone, and we have this disease in BC.

There is good news! People with TB can be treated.

About TB

TB tree lungs.jpg

What is TB?

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a slow-growing bacterium (germ) called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually lives in the lungs but can be in any body part. Only some people who get TB infection become sick with TB Disease. 

There are two different types of TB: 

  1. TB infection
  2. TB disease

Want to learn more? 

Read the HealthLinkBC file on TB in English, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Spanish and Vietnamese. Watch the What is TB? video.

How TB Spreads

TB is usually spread through the air from one person to another.  For this to happen, a person must have TB Disease in their lungs that gets into the air through coughing, sneezing, laughing or singing.  Once TB is in the air, another person can breathe it into their lungs.

When TB is in someone's lungs, it can begin to grow. It can also move through the blood to other parts of the body. TB is usually only spread to others when it's in the lungs.

Types of TB

 TB infection

When someone breathes in the TB bacteria, their body usually starts fighting it and wins. The bacteria still exists in these people, but it doesn't make them sick. With TB Infection, a person does not have symptoms and cannot spread TB to anyone else. The main problem with TB Infection is that it can become TB Disease at any time.  

Handout:  TB Infection (also called Latent TB Infection)

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TB Disease

If someone has TB bacteria in their body and their body can’t fight it, then it becomes TB Disease (also called Active TB disease). This can happen right after breathing in the TB bacteria or years later. Once a person has TB disease, they become sick and can spread TB to others. TB disease can be deadly, but it can be treated and cured. 

TB Disease usually lives in people’s lungs (pulmonary TB), but it can live anywhere in the body (extrapulmonary TB).  It can also live in more than one place at a time (disseminated TB).

Handout: Pulmonary TB 

Handout: Extrapulmonary TB

English | Chinese | French | Japanese  

Korean | Punjabi | Spanish | Tagalog | Vietnamese 

Signs & Symptoms


Signs and symptoms of TB Disease depend on where in the body TB is located. They can begin gradually and worsen over time. Common signs and symptoms include: 

  • fevers, chills and night sweats
  • not hungry (loss of appetite) and unexplained weight loss
  • weakness or feeling very tired

Pulmonary TB

Most often, TB will live in the lungs. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • A new or worse cough lasting longer than three weeks
  • Coughing up mucus (sputum), sometimes with blood
  • Trouble breathing and chest pain

Extrapulmonary TB

If TB Disease lives outside of the lungs, the signs and symptoms will depend on location. Some examples include:

  • Glands: lumps in the neck
  • Bones: pain in the bones or back
  • Joints: pain, redness, swelling
  • Kidney: painful peeing (urination), cloudy pee (urine)
  • Brain: headaches, stiff neck, pain in moving the head or eyes.
  • Heart: hard to catch your breath, chest pain
  • Intestines: stomach pain and change in poop (stool, feces)

TB Infection (Latent TB) to TB Disease (Active TB)


Most people with TB Infection will never develop TB Disease. Some people have a higher chance of developing TB Disease, especially those with a weakened immune system. Some examples include:

  • People who have developed TB Infection in the past two years
  • Babies, young children, and the elderly
  • People with chronic health conditions such as HIV infection, cancer, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes
  • People who take medications that weaken their immune system
  • People who have taken medicines for TB Infection or TB Disease in the past, but it wasn't done right. Examples are not getting the proper medications or taking the pills for long enough.

Some people with TB Disease can spread it to others and need to stay home. Home isolation means staying at home and avoiding contact with others. Read the HealthLinkBC file on home isolation for TB in English, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Spanish and Vietnamese. 

TB in BC

Many people living in BC have never heard of TB. Others have heard of it but think it doesn't exist here. BC has about 250 - 300 new diagnoses of TB disease each year. Most people with TB Disease were born outside Canada, but anyone can get it. We publish annual reports about TB in BC. 

Want to learn more? Read our TB Reports and watch the How common is TB? video.

Get Tested

iStock-496579044.jpgGet Tested

When to test

You may need to have TB screening for a wide variety of reasons. Visit your healthcare provider for a check-up if you have symptoms of TB disease or want to know if you have TB infection. Your healthcare provider will ask health questions and order any needed tests. 

Reasons for TB screening:

  • you have signs or symptoms of TB Disease
  • you were in contact with someone who has TB in their lungs that can spread from person to person
  • you work or volunteer in health care
  • you have health conditions such as HIV infection, cancer, chronic kidney disease, or diabetes
  • you have a low or weakened immune system from immunosuppressive medications
  • you are living in a communal setting such as a shelter, corrections, or a treatment program

What to Expect with TB Screening

  • Different types of tests look for TB. 
  • The type of test is chosen based on your health history and sometimes a body (physical) exam.
  • TB screening is free for most people, but it depends on the reason for and type of TB test(s).

TB skin test

Where to get a TB skin test

  • The BCCDC TB clinics cannot offer TB screening for work, school or volunteering.
  • Please do not contact our clinics to schedule TB Screening for work, school or volunteering.
  • Contact your local health unit and ask where TB skin testing is offered in your area. Depending on where you live in BC, Travel clinics, some pharmacies and doctor's offices provide TB skin tests.
  • For many people, TB skin tests are free, but it depends on the reason for the test. 
  • There is often a charge (cost) for TB skin tests for work, school, or volunteering.

What is a TB skin test?

The tuberculin skin test shows whether or not you have the TB bacteria in your body. It is the most common test used for TB. The test cannot tell the difference between TB Infection and TB Disease. This is a two-part test with two appointments 48 to 72 hours apart. 

First Visit

A healthcare provider will inject a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the lower part of your arm. 

Second Visit 

At the second appointment, a healthcare provider will read your body's reaction to the fluid on the lower part of your arm.

  • negative TB skin test usually means you do not have the TB bacteria in your body. Most people do not need further testing. 
  • positive TB skin test means you might have TB bacteria in your body. Before a diagnosis can be made, more testing is needed. 

Want to learn more? 

Read the TB Skin test HealthLinkBC file in English, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Spanish and Vietnamese. 

TB blood test (IGRA)

A TB skin test is used to test for TB infection. In some cases, an IGRA TB blood test may offer more information. The test cannot tell the difference between TB Infection and TB Disease. You may be offered an IGRA TB blood test if you are at risk of developing TB disease. Your doctor or nurse will decide if you need this test. 

  • negative TB blood test usually means that you do not have TB bacteria in your body. Most people do not need further testing.
  • positive TB blood test means you might have TB bacteria in your body. Before a diagnosis can be made, more testing is needed. 

Handout: TB Blood Test (IGRA)

English | Chinese | French | Korean | Punjabi

Spanish | Tagalog | Vietnamese 

Chest x-ray

A chest x-ray may be offered to some people. A chest x-ray is a picture of your lungs. It is often used after a positive TB skin or blood test to see if TB has affected your lungs. If there are changes, it's more likely you may have TB disease.

Xray exhale image from tb germ video.jpg

Sputum test

Sputum tests may be offered to some people. Sputum tests look at the mucus from your lungs. It can help figure out if you have TB disease and how likely you are to pass TB bacteria to another person. Watch our video on How to get a good sputum to get a good sputum sample for your tb test.PNG

Learn more by reading the HealthlinkBC file: Sputum collection for TB testing. The healthfile is in English, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Spanish and Vietnamese. 

Getting results

The way you get your TB test results will depend on the type of test that you had. If you had a TB skin test, your healthcare provider will explain the results of the second appointment and let you know if you require more testing. For other types of TB tests, the results may take several weeks. When you get tested, ask your healthcare provider how you will get your results and when they will be ready. It is important to follow up on your results.


Any information shared with your healthcare provider, including test results, is confidential. You may be asked to provide personal information when you go for TB testing. This is used to give the best health care, order tests, and contact you with results. If you are concerned about confidentiality, talk to your healthcare provider.

Care & Medications

TB Care

Just Diagnosed

If you have just found out that you have TB Infection or TB Disease, you may be overwhelmed and have many questions. It's important to know that it's not your fault and you're not alone. TB is treatable; your healthcare provider will help determine your best care and support. 


Connect | Share | Support

A supportive community for people affected by TB in Canada. 
You are not alone! 

TBpeople Canada is a supportive community of and for people living with TB, TB survivors, family members, friends and caregivers committed to the common goal of raising awareness of TB, fighting stigma and ending TB everywhere. 

As Canada's first peer support network for people affected by TB, this is a safe space for members to come together and share stories, experiences, and resources to foster feelings of togetherness and solidarity. 

TB Treatment

TB is treatable and most often curable with medications; however, TB germs have a waxy coat and can be very difficult to kill. A healthcare provider will help you decide what treatment is best for you.

TB Disease

  • This disease needs a combination of medications to be cured. 
  • The medications must be taken for at least six. It is important to take all your medications and finish the entire course of treatment. 
  • You will be followed and supported by healthcare providers throughout your treatment.

TB Infection

  • The medications can prevent TB Infection from becoming TB Disease; you may never get sick.
  • Deciding whether you want to treat TB infection is your choice; a healthcare provider will help you make decisions related to your care.
  • Treatment usually only requires one medication. However, because TB germs are difficult to kill, this medication needs to be taken for about 4 months. 

Healthcare providers will support and monitor you throughout your treatment. TB medications are generally safe. Follow the directions when taking TB medications, and talk to your healthcare provider about any side effects. Learn more about TB medications by reading our handouts and discussing any questions with your healthcare provider.

TB Medication Handouts

Available in 8 languages:

English | Chinese, 中文 | French, Français | Korean, 한국어 | Punjabi, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ | Spanish, Español | Tagalog | Vietnamese, Việt



Clofazimine Medication Sheet 

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Ethambutol Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Ethionamide Medication Sheet

English | Chinese | French | Korean | Punjabi | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Isoniazid Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Levofloxacin Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Linezolid Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Moxifloxacin Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

PASER Medication Sheet

(p-aminosalicyclic acid granules)

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese 

Pyrazinamide Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Pyridoxine Medication Sheet

(Vitamin B6)

English | French | Korean | Punjabi |  Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Rifabutin Medication Sheet

English | Chinese | French | Korean | Punjabi | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Rifampin Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Rifapentine and Isoniazid (3HP) Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

Rifapentine & Nitrosamine handout

Streptomycin Medication Sheet

English | French | Korean | Punjabi | Chinese | Spanish

Tagalog | Vietnamese

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SOURCE: About Tuberculosis ( )
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