Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually affects the lungs but can affect other parts of the body.

TB disease develops slowly in the body. It may take several months for the symptoms to appear.

Any of the following symptoms may be a sign of TB:

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Cough for more than two weeks
  • Losing weight
  • Blood in your sputum (phlegm) at any time

The TB germ is usually spread in the air. Some people with TB of the lungs have infectious TB. This means that they can pass TB to other people. The germ gets into the air when someone who has infectious TB coughs, sneezes or talks. Usually you need to be in close contact for a long time with someone who has infectious TB to become infected with the TB germ yourself.

Yes, anyone can get TB but you are at greater risk if you live in the same house as the person who is sick or if you are in very close contact with them. Only a small number of people who breathe in the TB germ get sick. This can happen within a couple of months of exposure or many years later.

There are a number of tests that can be done to check for TB. Your doctor will examine you and decide what tests you need. These may include a chest x-ray or sputum (phlegm) test. Sputum tested in a reliable laboratory is the most specific test but a patient may have TB yet have a negative sputum analysis. There is no blood test that can reliably diagnose TB and a positive skin test does not denote the patient has active TB as it is positive in those with latent/dormant TB.

Treatment involves taking medicine for at least six months and regularly attending an outpatient clinic in the hospital during this period.

TB germs are killed very slowly. You must continue to take your medicines as prescribed even when you have no symptoms of TB or you no longer feel ill.

All medicines may have side effects. Some side effects are minor, others may be more serious. The clinic doctor will give you information about the different tablets and their side effects. You should discuss any concerns you may have about side effects with the clinic doctor.