Environmental Health & Safety Office

TB Information for UH Hilo

Our Commitment to Your Safety

Safety is important here at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. UH Hilo is committed to keeping the university community informed on tuberculosis as it relates to our campus. We will continue to vigilantly monitor our campus community and provide updates.

If you have questions about TB or your risk, please call:

If you any other general questions, contact the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at (808) 932-7445.

TB Frequently Asked Questions

What is TB?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria. The bacteria most often attack the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body. TB disease is usually curable, but if not treated properly, it can be fatal.

How is TB spread?

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put 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. People with active TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with every day like family members and close friends. TB is not usually spread to persons who spend a small amount of time with a person who has active TB disease. TB cannot be spread by sharing paper, pens, books, food, utensils, drinking glasses, handshakes, by kissing, or sharing the same toilet.

What is latent TB infection?

When TB bacteria enters the body, the body is usually able to contain the bacteria and keep them from spreading. The bacteria become inactive or dormant, but they can remain in the body and can become active later in life. People with latent TB infection do not feel sick and cannot spread TB to others and they have a normal chest x-ray. It is highly recommended that a person who has latent TB infection take medicine to treat the infection and prevent them from developing active TB disease in the future. Without treatment, about one in ten people will develop active TB.

What is active TB disease?

This is the form of TB that causes illness. The body’s immune system is not able to contain the bacteria to keep them from spreading. The bacteria becomes active and grows in the body. The person with active TB can feel sick with weakness, weight loss, fever, night sweats, cough, chest pain, and/or coughing up blood. If the bacteria grows in the lungs, it may be spread through the air to others.

How do I get tested for TB?

The first step is to get a TB skin test. This test is usually done on the arm. A small needle is used to place testing material, called purified protein derivative (PPD) under the skin. In two or three days, a health care worker will check to see if there is a reaction to the test.

What does a “negative” TB skin test result mean?

If the TB skin test is “negative”, it usually means a person is not infected with TB. A person with a negative TB skin test usually does not need further testing. However, if they were recently exposed to someone with TB disease, a second test may be needed 8-12 weeks later.

What does a “positive” TB skin test result mean?

If the TB skin test is “positive”, it usually means that a person has been infected with TB. It does not necessarily mean that a person has TB disease. A chest xray is then needed to see if the TB has spread in the lungs, causing pulmonary TB disease. If the chest xray is negative for TB disease, then a person has latent TB infection. Again, it is highly recommended that a person who has latent TB infection take medicine to treat the infection and prevent them from developing active TB disease in the future.

Why aren’t all the students and faculty being tested?

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH) conducted a thorough assessment and determined that the risk of TB transmission was low. At this time, the only persons who need to be tested are those whom the DOH identified as having close and prolonged contact with the person who has TB. If you have any concerns or questions regarding this, please call the Hawaiʻi Tuberculosis Control Program at (808) 832-5732 or the Hawaiʻi District Health Office at (808) 974-6025.

I received a letter that states that I do not need to be tested for TB. I want to see if I have been infected. What should I do?

At this time, the DOH has determined that your risk of TB transmission was very low. If you have concerns and would like to get tested for TB, you may see your private physician.

Where can I get more information?

You can attend the informational session that has been scheduled at the school, or feel free to call the Hawaiʻi Tuberculosis Control Program at (808) 832-5731. You can also visit the following websites: