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Tuberculosis Disease Information on Symptoms and Testing

What is TB disease?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs; however TB bacteria can attack any part of the body. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

TB of the lungs is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are released into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

The symptoms of active TB:

TB in the lungs 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)
  • Other symptoms of active TB disease include: weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and sweating at night.


A positive TB skin test only shows that someone has TB bacteria in their body. A doctor will diagnose TB disease based on a chest x-ray and a test of your sputum, which will help show if you have the disease in your lungs.


People with active TB can be treated and cured using antibiotics which are taken for 6–9 months. It is VERY IMPORTANT to keep taking TB drugs to complete treatment otherwise drug-resistant TB may develop. TB drugs are provided free of charge from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit.

Testing of Contacts and Public Health Support

A public health nurse will arrange to test family, friends and coworkers to see if they have been exposed to TB. The public health nurse will also provide support to you throughout your treatment.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Questions and Answers about TB.” December 18, 2014.

Toronto Public Health. Tuberculosis Fact Sheet. 2011.