Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. Although it is spread in a similar way to a cold or the flu, TB is not as contagious. You would usually have to spend prolonged periods in close contact with an infected person to catch the infection yourself, by living or working with them.
TB is a serious condition, but can be cured with proper treatment.
TB mainly affects the lungs. However, it can affect any part of the body, including the glands, bones and nervous system.
Typical symptoms of TB include;
- a persistent cough that last more than three weeks and usually brings up phlegm, which may be bloody
- loss of weight for no obvious reason
- night sweats
- high temperature (fever)
- general and unusual sense of tiredness and being unwell
- loss of appetite
- new swellings that haven't gone away after a few weeks
If you have any of these symptoms you should make an appointment to see a GP. (These symptoms can have many different causes and are not always a sign of TB).
TB is curable with a course of special antibiotics.
BCG Vaccination is most effective against severe forms of TB in children, but does not prevent all forms of the disease, so even if you have had a BCG as a child it is important that you are aware of the symptoms of TB.
In 2014 6,520 cases of TB were reported in the UK. 72% of these people had been born outside the UK.
1,674 of the cases occurred in new migrants (notified within 6 years of entering the UK)
If you come from Sub-Saharan Africa or from a country with a very high risk of TB (>150 per 100,000 population) and are staying in the UK for more than a year, you will be offered testing for latent TB.
For more information on TB see www.thetruthabouttb.org
If you are in close contact of someone who has been diagnosed with TB and there is a risk you may have the infection, you will be offered a check up at a special TB clinic.