TB germs are spread from one person to another through the air. When a person with TB coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings, TB germs are released into the air. Anyone nearby who breathes in the air can be infected with TB.
Frequently Asked Questions
TB is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. TB can attack any part of the body, but most frequently affects the lungs.
TB infection is when the germs enter the body and are not destroyed by the body’s defence system, but remain in the body without causing any symptoms or signs. TB disease is when the germs increase within the body and cause symptoms and signs.
People living with HIV are at greater risk of developing TB. Because of their immature immune systems children under the age of five years are at increased risk, as are older people because of their weakened immune systems.
TB disease occurs most commonly in the lungs. It can also develop in almost any other part of the body, such as in the lymph nodes, heart, abdomen, kidneys, spine and so on.
You could have TB if you have been coughing for more than two weeks (especially if coughing up blood), have unexplained weight loss, and drenching night sweats or fever. Other symptoms include weakness, chest pain and other generalised aches.
TB disease of the lungs is diagnosed by testing the sputum and having chest x-rays done. Diagnosis of TB in other parts of the body needs special tests. Visit your nearest health centre if you think you might have TB.
If there is someone in your household with TB, help them to access free TB treatment at the nearest health centre. Once they are on treatment, support them to complete the treatment. Remember, feeling better after beginning treatment does not mean that one is cured, people on TB treatment need to complete their medication.
Open windows and doors to let in fresh air at home, and where possible, have your family member with TB sleep in their own room and their own bed. Cover mouth and nose with tissue or arm/elbow when coughing or sneezing, and be sure to place any used tissues in the bin and to wash your hands
HIV weakens the immune system. All people living with HIV should be screened for TB disease or infection. If you are HIV positive and also test positive for TB, you should get treatment as soon as possible. If you are taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), inform your healthcare provider to avoid drug interactions.
Remember, TB is curable, even if you have HIV. So, you should not worry, but be always on the look-out for the first sign of TB
For children under five years of age, if you see these symptoms, have them tested for TB immediately: sudden loss of appetite or interest in breast-feeding, rapid weight loss, fevers for two weeks or more, loss of consciousness, drowsiness and/or excessive sleepiness.
The immune system of children under the age of five is less developed, placing them at high risk of TB infection and disease. Children under the age of five in close contact with a person with TB should receive preventive therapy (INH) to prevent the development of TB disease. When a child has TB, it is usually because an adult in the family has TB. Children with HIV are also at high risk
If you think you might be pregnant, visit your nearest clinic for a pregnancy test as soon as possible. If you are pregnant book for antenatal care (ANC) at the nearest clinic as soon as you confirm your pregnancy. When you book at the ANC clinic you will be tested for both HIV and TB. It is important that you book early so that any disease is picked up and you can get treatment so both you and your baby are protected. Visit your clinic regularly for check-ups as advised by your nurse or doctor.
TB can be safely treated and cured when you are pregnant. Early treatment is best for you and your baby as TB treatment helps to kill the TB germ in your body. Do not stop taking your treatments, even if you feel better. You need to take all doses of your medication for a minimum period of six months, or until the nurse or doctor tells you to stop. If you have any side effects from the treatment, you must tell the nurse or doctor.
If you have TB and are also HIV positive but are not on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, you will be started on TB treatment immediately. Your nurse or doctor will start you on ARVs within two to eight weeks.
If you are on ARV treatment already, you will continue with your ARVs and you will start TB treatment immediately.
If you are pregnant, have TB and HIV and you are already on ARVs, your doctor or nurse may change your treatment to find one that is best for you and your baby.
If you have TB during pregnancy and you do not find out and treat it early, there is a higher risk of having a miscarriage, your baby being born prematurely, your baby being born with low birth weight and your baby being born with TB.
Continue taking your medication according to your schedule. Do not take two doses at the same time. If you miss many doses you must see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Yes. People living with HIV who do not have symptoms or signs of TB can be given some medicines to reduce the risk of developing TB disease. New-born children are given a vaccine called BCG that prevents serious forms of TB from developing. People living with HIV can also have their chances of developing TB reduced when they take antiretroviral drugs.