Tuberculosis Home > Latent Versus Active Tuberculosis

Many people wonder about the differences between latent versus active tuberculosis (TB). While people with latent tuberculosis are not contagious and often show no symptoms of TB, people with active tuberculosis are contagious and may have many symptoms, such as pain in the chest or a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer.

Summary of Latent Versus Active Tuberculosis

There are several differences between latent tuberculosis and active tuberculosis.
A person with latent tuberculosis:
  • Has no symptoms of tuberculosis
  • Does not feel sick
  • Cannot spread tuberculosis to others
  • Usually has a positive skin test or tuberculosis blood test
  • Has a normal chest x-ray and sputum test.
A person with active tuberculosis:
  • Has symptoms that may include:
o A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
o Pain in the chest
o Coughing up blood or sputum
o Weakness or fatigue
o Weight loss
o No appetite
o Chills
o Fever
o Sweating at night
  • May spread tuberculosis to others
  • Usually has a positive skin test or tuberculosis blood test
  • May have an abnormal chest x-ray, or positive sputum smear or culture.
To learn more about latent versus active tuberculosis, click on one of the following eMedTV articles:
Latent Tuberculosis
Active Tuberculosis.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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