Suspicion of Active Tuberculosis
Notify the Health Department of suspected active tuberculosis or positive AFB (acid-fast bacilli) smears or cultures.
Patients Without Insurance
- Contact the Health Department. They may contact the patient and arrange to drop off and pick up sputum collection cups.
- Testing will be done at the Washington State Public Health Lab (PHL) at no charge to the patient.
Patients with Insurance
- Use a sterile container, like a sputum or urine cup, and mark the container at the 5 mL level.
- Educate the patient to expectorate at least 5 mLs (1 tsp) of sputum.
- Label each container with the date of collection, the patient’s name, date of birth and other information as required by the laboratory.
- Instruct the patient to collect specimens on three consecutive days, with at least two specimens collected in the early morning (secretions build up while the patient is sleeping).
- You may find this Sputum Collection Patient Education Sheet helpful.
- Submit each specimen to the laboratory for “AFB (acid-fast bacilli) smear and culture”
- Depending on the laboratory, smear results are generally available within 24 to 48 hours.
- Depending on the laboratory, final culture results are generally available within six to eight weeks.
Ruling Out Active Tuberculosis
- Active tuberculosis is ruled out when all final culture results are negative and there is no remaining clinical suspicion.
- Latent tuberculosis treatment should not be initiated until active tuberculosis has been ruled out.