||TB is an infection that can spread from person to person. It can affect almost any part of the body, but usually affects the lungs. Bones, kidneys, glands, and around the brain may be affected as well. |
Before a cure was found, about half the people with TB died. Now that there is a cure, TB is much less common.
BUT – TB can still kill if left untreated.
Why is it important?
There is a risk that TB will spread more in New Zealand. If everyone works together TB can be kept under control.
What does TB do?
When a person breathes the TB bacteria into their lungs it may:
- start destroying the lungs straight away or
- spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body or
- be held by the body’s defences and stay dormant (sleeping) for many years before it develops or
- be held by the body’s defences forever.
What are some signs of TB?
When a person has TB they may:
- lose a lot of weight
- feel tired all the time
- sweat a lot at night
- cough on and on for more than 3 weeks – usually thick spit (called phlegm or sputum) comes up, and sometimes they cough blood.
These are only some of the signs of TB. If someone is generally unwell they should see a doctor, or talk to their health worker.
How does TB spread?
- TB spreads from person to person by coughing.
- The bacteria are coughed into the air and people nearby can breathe them in through their mouth and nose.
- TB spreads most easily to the people living or working closely with a person who has TB at its infectious stage.
- TB will only spread while the live bacteria are coughed up in spit.
Who can catch TB?
TB is most common in older people who have had the infection dormant in their lungs for years. Anyone who comes into contact with someone with TB can catch it, it has got nothing to do with personal hygiene or how clean your house is.
What about animals?
Possums and deer and cows get slightly different types of TB. Now that cow’s milk is pasteurised it is very rare for people to catch TB from farm animals.
What if you haveTB?
If you think you might have any of the signs of TB it’s important to:
see your doctor – they may arrange TB tests, such as:
- skin test (Mantoux)
- spit or cough test.
If you have TB, you will be given antibiotics – tablets – to take for 6 to 12 months. The people around you should be tested too, to see if they need treatment. TB can be cured with antibiotics.
Can someone with TB live a normal life?
Yes! Most people with TB can return to their normal work and play within a few weeks. They may not even have to stay away from work.
What if TB is not treated fully?
If TB is only partly treated the disease will get worse again and the person may die. In the meantime it can also spread to more people. If the whole course of treatment is not taken, the bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotics. This makes TB much harder or impossible to cure.
How can the spread of TB be stopped?
- By early treatment of people with TB.
- By testing the family and work-mates of people with TB.
- BCG vaccination.
BCG vaccination is given to some babies and people who are at particular risk of contracting TB. BCG does not provide long term immunity from developing TB.
Anyone can get TB – anyone can get it treated.
- Go to the doctor.
- Take the tablets.
- Get the people close to you to go for tests – talk to your doctor about this.
- Prevent the spread of TB.
Further information is available from the Ministry of Health