It is also important to know that TB is NOT spread through the following actions:

  • shaking someone’s hand
  • sharing food or drink
  • touching bed linens or toilet seats
  • sharing toothbrushes
  • kissing

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Preventing Infection with Tuberculosis

While there is a vaccine for tuberculosis, for various reasons it is not widely used in the United States. If you think you are at an especially high risk for becoming infected with TB, you should discuss these concerns with your doctor.

The only way to not be exposed and potentially infected with TB is to avoid close or prolonged contact with infected people. However, it often isn’t always possible to know that people around you are infected, but infected people are more likely to be found in crowded places such as homeless shelters, prisons, and healthcare facilities. If you frequently visit such places, or work in high-risk settings, you are at greater risk. However, you could be exposed just about anywhere, including in your home or doctor’s office if infected people are present. The risk is much higher when traveling abroad outside of the United States. Wearing a face mask really isn’t practical or reasonable, and it isn’t remotely necessary in the United States. People who are experiencing symptoms of tuberculosis in healthcare settings may be asked to wear a mask to protect others, but they could have spread the infectious respiratory droplets prior to putting the mask on. A person in your household who becomes infected somewhere else may also spread the infection in the household. It is important to pay attention to potential symptoms of TB in yourself and others and then take steps to prevent possible infection, such as wearing face masks and using a disinfectant on shared surfaces that is known to kill the tuberculosis bacteria. It is most important to seek healthcare immediately if you experience symptoms or think you may have been exposed to TB. A very simple test can help determine if you have been exposed.

Challenges in Selecting a Cleaner and Disinfectant

But a challenge exists for anyone concerned about eliminating or reducing potential TB contamination in the household or healthcare environment since it isn’t always possible to know with certainty that the cleaner or disinfectant being used will be effective against TB. Even cleaners that claim to be effective “against 99% of germs” are not necessarily effective against TB because of the unique cell structure of TB which resists many disinfectants. Therefore, it is important to know exactly which germs constitute the set of 99% being measured against. Labelling requirements don’t always require manufacturers to disclose exactly what their cleaners are effective against, nor do they necessarily have to say what measures they are using to make such claims. Ideally, you should choose a cleaner and disinfectant that has been tested and certified as effective against TB by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This provides your only certainty that the cleaner and disinfectant you choose will always be able to kill TB when used as directed. But how do you find such a highly tested and certified cleaner and disinfectant given the extreme difficulty and expense in meeting the EPA requirements? What products have bothered to undergo such scrutiny?