San Quentin’s Annual Tuberculosis Testing


By Dr. E. Tootell

East Block, AC and NS: Mid-April

California State Law requires that every inmate be screened yearly for Tuberculosis. San Quentin will start doing the annual Tuberculosis testing in the next few weeks. If you have had negative TB tests in the past, you will be tested. If you have had documented positive TB tests in the past, you will be screened for symptoms, but not tested. You are required by law to be screened!

What Is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs that is commonly called TB. TB is caused by a germ that floats in the air. You can be exposed to TB if a person with infectious TB disease talks, coughs, shouts or sneezes. This sprays TB germs into the air around you. Anyone nearby can breathe the TB germs into their lungs. Some of these people could become infected with TB.

Why Is It Important To Have A TB Skin Test?

You can be infected with TB and not know it. TB germs can live in your body without making you sick right away. The TB Skin Test can tell you early that you need treatment.

Residents of prisons are at risk for developing TB. Since TB is spread through the air, all people who share the same air space can get TB. Residents of prisons are at risk for developing TB. Inmates should be tested regularly to make sure TB does not spread.

The TB Skin Test can catch TB early. The earlier you find TB infection, the easier it can be to treat.

What Is A TB Skin Test?

A TB Skin Test is a simple test to determine whether a TB infection is present. A small amount of PPD (purified protein derivative) is injected just under the skin with a sterile, unused needle. This forms a small bump, which soon disappears.

You may experience some redness or minor swelling in your arm – this is not unusual or harmful. You may have had a TB Skin Test recently. It is not harmful to have another. PPD is not a blood product. You can not get AIDS from a TB Skin Test.

The Skin Test is read 48 to 72 hours after the test is given. The medical staff read the test by feeling, and then measuring, the firmness at the site of the test. If your test is not read within 48 to 72 hours, it must be repeated.

What Is A Positive Skin Test?

When the Skin Test measures greater than 10 millimeters, your test is positive. In some higher risk individuals, a Skin Test measuring five millimeters is positive. A positive test does not necessarily mean you have the disease. It means you have the germs in your body and need follow-up. It is important that a medical evaluation be performed. You will be scheduled for a visit to the clinic.

What Does A Negative Skin Test Mean?

A negative skin test means one of the following:

You have not been infected with TB, or

You may have been infected with TB, but it’s too early to tell, or

Your immune system is weak and did not react properly. This can happen with cancer and HIV patients.

What Do I Do If My TB Skin Test Is Positive?

You should receive a medical evaluation, which could include a chest X-ray. Your doctor may recommend medications for you to take. An appointment will be scheduled for you in your clinic at the earliest available time.


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