Texas has some of the highest rates of tuberculosis, but now a new community-based effort is underway to tackle the disease.

The effort is led by the Department of State Health Services. They’re partnering with several local organizations to make a major impact in 20 different counties across South Texas.

Tuberculosis is a potentially deadly bacteria spread with a simple cough or sneeze.

“Tuberculosis doesn’t discriminate,” said Tommy Camden with San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. “As long as you’re breathing, you’re still capable of contracting tuberculosis.”

The airborne infection takes over the lungs and can show no symptoms for years. About a third of the world’s population is infected, according to the World Health Organization, with more than 1,300 of those cases found in Texas.

The state health department has partnered with Metro Health in San Antonio and other organizations to “dead the spread.”

“We’re targeting upwards of 3,500 individuals per year,” Camden noted.

In Bexar County, health professionals are screening four times a week, targeting high-risk populations like the homeless, diabetics, and those with AIDS. Medications, X-rays, and follow-up care are all provided at no charge to the patient.

“It’s collected and brought to the laboratory here, where they’re set up for processing,” Camden explained.

Results can come in as soon as 24 to 48 hours. If the results are positive for TB, patients are taken to a clinic that specializes in treatment, to have it cured before it hits the disease state.

To help protect yourself from TB, experts suggest using a facemask when in the presence of those with the infection and not to spend a long time with them if you can help it.