What is a PPD Test?

A Purified Protein Derivative (PPD)  test is a test that is used to determine whether or not you have tuberculosis (TB). When you hear the word ‘tuberculosis’, you probably think of Western movies like Tombstone. Yes, Doc Holiday had tuberculosis. Unfortunately, TB did not die with the Gold Rush. Tuberculosis is still a real risk. It is important, especially in some fields of work, to get tested for it. In fact, some jobs will require you to get a PPD skin test before taking the job.

When you receive a Purified Protein Derivative test, your doctor will start by swabbing the interior of your arm with alcohol to sanitize the area, just as though you are about to get the flu shot. You will then be administered a shot, usually under the top layer of your skin that contains PPD. After 48 to 72 hours, you will be asked to return. Your doctor will then determine whether you developed a reaction that would indicate the presence of TB. 

What is TB?

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious, bacterial infection that most commonly attacks the lungs. Although most symptoms are exhibited in the lungs, advanced cases can have symptoms that appear in other places such as the spine or even the brain. Some people that have TB do not show any signs or symptoms of the disease. This means that they have a latent form of Tuberculosis. Latent tuberculosis just means that the bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) are living in the body, but the immune system is doing a good job of keeping them from spreading. People with latent TB are a risk to those around them who do not have strong immune systems.

What Jobs Require a PPD Test?

When entering the workforce, there are several jobs that will require you to get a PPD test before you are cleared for work. If your job requires that you receive a test for TB, it probably means that the job is considered to be a high risk for contracting or spreading TB. Let’s have a look at three of the jobs that are considered to be in high-risk environments:

Correctional Facilities:

With the high volume of people in close quarters, correctional facilities are a great place for the rapid spreading of infectious disease. Another factor at play is cleanliness. The spread of any disease is exacerbated in an unclean environment. This is especially true for tuberculosis.

Long-Term Care Facilities (Nursing Homes):

Another factor that hastens the spread of tuberculosis is a poor immune system. Since the elderly often have weakened immune systems, they are high-risk candidates for the spread of the disease. Just as in correctional facilities, long-term care facilities have a large number of people in a relatively small space. 

Homeless Shelters:

A homeless shelter is a unique environment in which all of the above risk factors are present. Most individuals who reside in a homeless shelter have weakened immune systems. That factor coupled with the close quarters and lack of a semi-sterile environment, TB can spread quickly in a homeless shelter.

It Never Hurts to Play it Safe

Getting a PPD skin test is not at all invasive. If your job requires that you get tested, it is a simple test with fast turnaround times. If you are not required to get a tuberculosis test, it still might be a good idea to get a PPD skin test if you feel like you live or work in a high-risk environment. Another reason that you might want to consider getting a TB test is if you have family or friends that are at high risk. Latent TB might not make you sick, but it could be deadly to those around you. For more information about PPD testing and other forms of screening, check out Soteria Screening.

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