That Other Time I Thought I Had TB


tuberculosis skin test result, TB skin test reaction, positive TB skin test, negative TB skin testNote: I do not have tuberculosis, latent or active. However, the results of my TB skin tests — yes, tests, plural — during my health unit outbrief (and follow-up) from Kabul indicated otherwise. Specifically, they indicated I was on the positive/negative border (just under 10 millimeters induration) but somewhat inconclusive because the induration (the swollen/hardened part reacting to the test) wasn’t well-defined.Some of you longtime La Vie Overseas readers (i.e. my husband and sister) might recall the first time I thought I had TBWell, this time I was a little bit more concerned because Afghanistan has the highest prevalence of tuberculosis in the world. I feel like NO ONE TOLD ME THAT BEFORE I WENT THERE. I mean, I would have remembered such a factoid.Anyway, apparently having latent tuberculosis is no big thing. It’s there, but it’s not active, and in most healthy people, it stays that way. There’s a small chance that in old age when one’s immune system is weakened it could convert into active TB, so to reduce that small chance even more, it is treated with antibiotic regimens ranging from three to nine months.tuberculosis skin test result, TB skin test reaction, positive TB skin test, negative TB skin testI was mentally preparing myself for months of antibiotics, while simultaneously preparing for packout and other transfer-season fun. Per the advice from the State Department’s infectious disease unit chief, the health unit at post recommended I visit the main medical office at the State Department in Washington to get a referral for a special blood test to determine — conclusively — whether I have latent TB.In addition to the test, called Interferon-Gamma Release Assays (IGRA), State Med recommended I also get a chest x-ray to make sure I don’t have active TB. I repeat here in case there is any confusion: I do not have TB (latent or active).So that was a fun way to spend my first week back in the U.S. This plus regular check-ups made seven doctor’s appointments + labwork visits in one week — on top of consultations for work and buying a new car. But I’m glad I got a definitive answer — and that it was negative!Have you ever had a medical scare that turned out to be nothing?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

4 thoughts on “That Other Time I Thought I Had TB

  1. Hm. Mine looks like that too the last couple times I got tested. How long after they tested you did it stay looking that way? The hospital has been short on tests so I haven’t gotten it done in about three years.


    1. You are supposed to have the test read 48-72 hours after it’s administered, and after three days it starts to go away. I had a bruise for a while after my first test but the health unit said that’s normal. You work at a hospital so I’m sure someone can advise you on what to do! Is it required that you get it done annually/regularly?


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