Knox County Tennessee

Communicable Disease Services

Some diseases pose a public health threat because they can spread from person to person and cause significant health problems, even death, if untreated. The Communicable Disease Program focuses on identifying and treating sexually transmitted infections (STIs), tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS. The program now also offers free Hepatitis C testing. Tennessee public health laws give the Tennessee Department of Health responsibility for implementing regulations for the control of communicable disease in Tennessee. The Knox County Health Department is responsible for carrying out these requirements.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)

Confidential testing, treatment and educational services are available for the following STIs: gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Disease intervention specialists, in the interest of prevention and control of STIs, do contact follow-up visits. All testing is PRIVATE and CONFIDENTIAL.

STI testing and treatment is available by walk-in Monday through Friday. Due to covid vaccine staffing issues, wait times may be prolonged on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. To ensure you are seen please arrive by 3:00pm. If you have questions, please call 865.215.5370.


Gonorrhea is a STI that can infect both men and women. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Gonorrhea is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth.

If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of getting gonorrhea by:

  • Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and doesn’t have any STIs
  • By using a latex condom the right way every time you have sex.

Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. However, men who do have symptoms may have:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • A white, yellow or green discharge from the penis
  • Painful or swollen testicles

Unlike men, most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms. Symptoms in women can include:

  • Painful or burning sensation while urinating
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. It is, however, becoming harder to treat some gonorrhea, as drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are increasing. If your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to your health care provider to be checked again. For more information on gonorrhea, click here or watch the video below.


Chlamydia is a common STI that can infect both men and women. It is the most commonly reported STI in the United States. Chlamydia can be easily cured, however, if left untreated, chlamydia can make it difficult for women to get pregnant. Chlamydia is spread by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia.

Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner.

Symptoms in women include:

  • An abnormal vaginal discharge
  • A burning sensation when urinating

Symptoms in men include:

  • A discharge from their penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles

If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of getting chlamydia by:

  • Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and doesn’t have any STIs
  • By using a latex condom the right way every time you have sex.

Sexually active young people are at a higher risk of getting chlamydia. This is due to behaviors and biological factors common among young people. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are also at risk since chlamydia can spread through oral and anal sex.

If you are a sexually active woman younger than 25 years, you should get a test for chlamydia every year. If you are an older woman with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has an STI, you should get a test for chlamydia every year Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis was once nearly eliminated in the United States, but is now on the increase, especially among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Any sexually active person can get syphilis. It can be transmitted during anal sex and oral sex, as well as vaginal sex. Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. In men, these sores can occur around the penis, around the anus, or in the rectum, or in and around the mouth.

It may not be obvious that a sex partner has syphilis. Syphilis sores can be hidden in the vagina, anus, under the foreskin of the penis, or in the mouth. The only way to avoid getting syphilis or other STIs is to not have anal, oral or vaginal sex. If you are sexually active, doing the following things will lower your chances of getting syphilis:

  • Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for syphilis and does not have syphilis
  • By using a latex condom the right way every time you have sex. Condoms prevent the spread of syphilis by preventing contact with a sore. Sometimes sores can occur in areas not covered by a condom. Contact with these sores can still transmit syphilis.

If you have been successfully treated for syphilis, you can still be re-infected. Only laboratory tests can confirm whether you have syphilis. Click here for more information on syphilis.

Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. Most people today become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.

Free testing for hepatitis C is available at the Knox County Health Department. It’s estimated that more than one million people have hepatitis C but don’t know they are infected. Knowing your status is important for your health and for protecting those closest to you. Please call 865-215-5370 for more information.

Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic:”

Acute hepatitis C virus infection: short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection. In 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an estimated 30,500 cases of acute hepatitis C virus infections reported in the United States.

Chronic hepatitis C virus infection: long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis or liver cancer. An estimated 2.7-3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.

Common ways someone can become infected with the Hepatitis C virus:

  • Sharing needles, syringes or other devices to inject drugs
  • Needlestick injuries in health care settings
  • Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C

Who is at risk for hepatitis C?

  • Current injection drug users
  • Past injection drug users, including those who injected only one time many years ago
  • Recipients of donated blood, blood products, and organs
  • People who received a blood product for clotting problems made before 1987
  • People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments
  • HIV-infected persons
  • Children born to mothers infected with the Hepatitis C virus

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)

Click here for more information on Hepatitis C.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Note: we no longer perform TB screening or testing for employment or entry into schools.

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attacks the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. The TB program at the KCHD provides services for risk assessment, diagnosis and treatment of TB (including TB testing, chest x-rays, laboratory examinations, medications and hospitalization if necessary.)

Prevention services are provided through TB education, contact examination for early detection and preventive medication for TB infection.

TB risk assessments are free for everyone. TB risk assessments and testing are available Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the main health department and West Clinic. If you have questions, please call 865.215.5382.

TB bacteria are spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected.

TB is NOT spread by:

  • Shaking someone’s hand
  • Sharing food or drink
  • Touching bed linens or toilet seats
  • Sharing toothbrushes
  • Kissing

People with TB are most likely to spread it to people they spend a lot of time with. This includes family members, close friends, co-workers, and classmates.

Symptoms of TB depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. The bacteria associated with TB usually grow in the lungs (pulmonary TB). TB disease in the lungs may cause the following symptoms:

  • A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)

Other symptoms of TB disease are:

  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • No appetite
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sweat at night

Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and TB disease. Both latent TB infection and TB disease can be treated. Click here to learn more about these two TB-related conditions.

HIV Services

The KCHD’s Centers of Excellence (COE) is a specialty clinic that provides care to those infected with HIV. The COE also provides nutrition and pharmaceutical counseling if needed. Additionally, we have medical care managers available within the clinic to link patients to other services. Our staff is dedicated to building strong, trusting relationships with our patients.

CONFIDENTIAL HIV testing is available at the main health department and West Clinic. HIV case management and nutrition counseling are available at the main location only.

For more information on the COE, click here or watch the video below.