Tuberculosis (TB) Disease

TB is a disease, caused by bacteria, that can spread from one person to another. Most often TB affects the lungs, but you can find it in any part of the body.

Page updated on Feb 12, 2019 at 11:11 AM

BCG does not prevent TB

Unlike many vaccines that are very good at preventing disease, the bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine has limited benefits.  It prevents the most serious TB symptoms in infants and young children.  It does NOT prevent you from getting TB infection if you are exposed, or from developing active TB disease.

What is TB and how do I get it?

TB is a disease caused by bacteria which can spread from one person to another. TB often affects the lungs, but you can find it in any part of the body. 

TB bacteria is spread through the air in tiny droplets when a person with TB in his/her lungs coughs, sneezes, or speaks.  


If you breathe in these droplets, one of three things can happen:

  1. You do not get infected with TB bacteria, OR
  2. You get infected with TB bacteria, and your body controls it (latent TB infection), OR
  3. You get infected with TB bacteria, but your body does not control it and you get sick (active TB disease).


Latent TB infection can turn into active TB disease. That is why getting tested and taking medicine for prevention is important.

What are the symptoms of TB?

Symptoms of active TB disease may include:

  • Cough lasting 3 or more weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • Losing weight
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever

People with latent TB infection do not have any symptoms.

Who is at risk for getting TB?

You have a greater chance of getting TB if you have one or more of the following risk factors: 

If you are a baby, child or adult who:

  • Lived or spent time in a country where TB is common
  • Lived or spent time with someone with active TB disease
  • Lived or worked in a congregate setting (such as a shelter, jail, long-term care or assisted living facility)
  • Worked in a healthcare setting
  • Was/is homeless within the last 2 years
  • Uses illicit drugs (including crack cocaine) 
  • Spent time with a person with any of the risk factors listed above

How do I get tested for TB?

To get tested, call your medical provider or the Health Department at 703.746.4960.

Can TB be treated?

Yes. Latent TB infection and active TB disease can be treated and cured by finishing all medications your doctor orders.

If you have TB risk factors or TB symptoms, call your doctor or Alexandria Health Department at 703.746.4960.

If you live outside of the City of Alexandria, contact the Virginia Department of Health for your local health department.