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Tuberculosis What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is most commonly transmitted via droplet infection. It is contracted through inhaling tiny droplets of saliva from coughs or sneezes of an infected person. Although TB normally effects the lungs, the infection is capable of spreading to many different parts of the body, such as the bones or nervous system, or other organs such as the kidneys. Typical symptoms of TB include a persistent cough with blood stained phlegm, weight loss and night sweats as well as chest pains.

Once an individual is infected they can remain without symptoms or go on to experience the above symptoms, as well as dramatic weight loss and general ill health.

Who is at risk of Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is found all over the world, including the UK. In the last ten years, there has been a 25% increase in cases within the UK, mainly found in those with an Asian background. China and India have the highest number of reported cases, although Africa has the largest number of deaths. For those travelling to high-risk areas, such as Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of South America, proof of immunity is recommended

How can I prevent Tuberculosis?

The BCG vaccine contains a weak strain of the disease, and is given in a single dose following a 'negative' Mantoux test. A Mantoux test helps to detect whether a person has ever been in contact with the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. However, it cannot prove you have a current active TB infection. This test has replaced the Heaf Test that was previously used in the UK.

The BCG vaccination should never be given to a person who has a positive result from the Mantoux test. A "strong" positive test may even indicate that you will need to visit a chest clinic for further assessment, to ensure you are not currently carrying the infection.

The vaccination can be given to all persons over the age of six. Some babies may be immunised at birth, if they are considered to be at risk from contracting tuberculosis.

For those with TB, treatment involves a variety of antibiotics taken over a period of months.