Questions and answers for patients adjusting their immigration status
People get immigration exams to change their immigration status. If they test positive for TB infection, the doctor will share that information with us at the health department.
The doctor you saw for your immigration exam is required to tell the health department about people diagnosed with latent tuberculosis infection. We text or call you to make sure you know that we recommend starting and completing treatment for latent TB infection unless there is a medical reason not to. We also want to make sure we answer any questions you have, provide resources you need, and help you find a doctor if you need one. We use a special texting service that is approved for sharing medical and personal information to keep your information safe and protected. You are always welcome to call us instead.
A positive result on a blood test (called IGRA, QFT, or TSPOT) and normal chest x-ray means that you have a latent TB infection. You can have latent TB infection if you don’t have symptoms and aren’t sick. Latent TB infection means you have “sleeping” TB germs in your body that could “wake up” and become TB disease, making you sick. Once you have TB disease, you will have symptoms and can spread the infection to other people, like family and friends.
Lots of people have latent TB infection. Some doctors may not want you to take medicine for latent TB infection unless you have certain health conditions that suppress your immune system. Even if you are healthy, latent TB infection can turn into TB disease.
Getting the TB vaccine (BCG) as a child does not change the results of a blood test but may change the results of a skin test. Many people born outside of the US may have received the BCG vaccine in their country of origin. The TB vaccine can protect against the worst types of childhood TB, but you can still get TB infection and disease.
If latent TB infection becomes TB disease it can cause a lot of problems. You will have to isolate from family and friends, stay home from work, and take medicine for a long time. Taking medicine for latent TB infection decreases your change of getting TB disease in the future. This protects you and also your family and friends.
No, you are not required to take treatment for latent TB infection.
If the doctor who did your immigration exam did not prescribe medicine for latent TB infection, you can call your primary care doctor to set up an appointment to talk about taking medicine. If you do not have a primary care doctor call or email us: LTBI@kingcounty.gov, or phone: 206-384-9886.
The price of latent TB infection medicine will depend on if you have insurance and what medicine you will be taking. Community health centers give medicine on a sliding scale. Call us if you need help finding a community health clinic for medication.
If you have already taken medicine for latent TB infection or TB disease, you usually don’t have to take treatment again. Call your doctor if you have questions.
If you take medicine for latent TB infection, ask your doctor for a letter that says you have finished your medicine. If someone asks you to take a TB test, show them the letter from your doctor and ask for a “symptom screen” instead. You will likely test positive on any future TB tests as your immune system still recognizes TB.
Please follow this link: https://my.uscis.gov/findadoctor to find a doctor that does immigration exams near you.