What is TB?

TB is a disease caused by a 'germ' called mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually attacks the lungs but it can affect almost any part of the body.


Why is TB important?

It is important because 1/3 of the world's population is infected with TB and millions of people die of TB each year. TB can kill if left untreated, however it can be cured with medication.


Who can get TB?

Anybody can get TB.


How is TB spread?

When a person with TB disease of the lungs coughs or sneezes the germs go into the air and can be breathed in by people close by, especially people who have close contact over a prolonged period of time.


What will happen if I get infected with TB?

Most people who breathe in TB germs do not get sick with TB. Usually the body defence suppress the TB germs, causing the germs to "sleep". As long as the germs are sleeping, the person stays well, and cannot pass the germs to other people. Sometimes after months or years, the "sleeping" germs can wake up and cause TB disease. The chance of this happening is low, about 1 in 10 over the lifetime and is most likely to happen if the immune system is weakened (eg: by diabetes, kidney disease, stress, poor nutrition).





What are the main signs and symptoms of TB?

• A cough of more than 3 weeks duration

• increased tiredness

• night sweats

• weight loss  


What do I do if I have some of the symptoms of TB?

Go to a doctor or student health clinic. Seek medical advice early.


I know someone with TB, should I avoid them?

No, once they have been taking their TB medication for a few weeks they are no longer infectious .


What if I have been vaccinated with BCG?

This does not always protect people from TB. The benefit of the BCG is greatest in young children and lessens over time.


How can I ensure good health?

• Get plenty of sleep

• Eat regular healthy meals (with plenty of fruit and vegetables)

• Go to the doctor if you feel unwell, especially if you have TB symptoms.

• Be smokefree

• Limit alcohol consumption



© Auckland Regional Public Health