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Tuberculosis (TB) - Prevention

Active tuberculosis (TB) is very contagious. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one-third of the world's population is infected with the bacteria that cause TB.

To avoid getting an active TB infection:

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  • Do not spend long periods of time in stuffy, enclosed rooms with anyone who has active TB until that person has been treated for at least 2 weeks.
  • Use protective measures, such as face masks, if you work in a facility that cares for people who have untreated TB.
  • If you live with someone who has active TB, help and encourage the person to follow treatment instructions.

Can the TB vaccine help?

A TB vaccine (bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG) is used in many countries to prevent TB. But this vaccination is almost never used in the United States because:

  • The risk of getting TB is low in the U.S.
  • The vaccine is not very effective in adults who receive it.
  • The BCG vaccine may cause a tuberculin skin test to indicate a TB infection even if a person is not infected with TB. This complicates the use of the tuberculin skin test to check people for TB.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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