Muhlenberg County Health Department Tuberculosis Information

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

TB bacteria are spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. When a person breathes in TB bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there, they can move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine, and brain.

TB disease in the lungs or throat can be infectious. This means that the bacteria can be spread to other people. TB in other parts of the body, such as the kidney or spine, is usually not infectious. People with TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with every day. This includes family members, friends, and coworkers or schoolmates.

Symptoms of TB disease depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. TB bacteria usually grow in the lungs and may cause symptoms such as:

• a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
• pain in the chest
• coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
• weakness or fatigue
• weight loss/no appetite
• chills/fever
• sweating at night

Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.

People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others.

People who have HIV are more likely to get TB.

Through the Kentucky Tuberculosis Program, Muhlenberg County Health Department offers TB skin testing and treatment for latent and active disease. Our goal is to ensure that non-infected persons do not become infected, that those with diagnosed latent infections don’t become active disease, and to treat those with active disease so that they will be non-infectious. 

If you need a TB skin test or need more information about TB, call the Muhlenberg County Health Department at 270-754-3200.