Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium. In many developing countries, tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death. The most common type is pulmonary tuberculosis, however the bacterium may also affect other parts of the body.

How does one get TB?

TB is caused by the tubercle bacillus and transmitted by patients who suffer from open tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is spread through the air when patients who suffer from open TB in their lungs cough, spit or sneeze. Other people in the same space can become infected through the exhaled air from the lungs. Because the bacterium spreads through the air, the risk of anyone being infected through touching objects and food is pretty small. However, one can become infected through drinking unpasteurised milk or milk products that originate from an infected animal.

Where does tuberculosis currently occur?

In many developing countries, tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death. This is partly due to the dramatic increase of the number of AIDS patients. They have a reduced immune system, making them more susceptible to TB. In the Netherlands, tuberculosis rarely occurs.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of TB include coughing, fatigue, lethargy, weight loss, decreased appetite, (mild) fever and night sweats.

How to prevent getting TB?

If you are travelling to a destination where TB is prevalent for three months or longer then the BCG vaccine is recommended. This vaccine is recommended only if you were never before infected with TB and have not yet received a BCG vaccine. Note that the vaccine does not reduce the risk of infection but does protect you from possible serious consequences of the disease and improves the chance of survival.