Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can be easily spread to others. In 2019 the World Health Organisation reported that approximately 10 million people fell ill with Tuberculosis worldwide and there were 1.4 million deaths.

Symptoms

There are 3 types of Tuberculosis:

  • Latent Tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary Tuberculosis
  • Extrapulmonary Tuberculosis

Dependent on the type of Tuberculosis that a person has the symptoms will vary.

People with Latent Tuberculosis will not show any signs or symptoms of having the disease.

However, for Pulmonary Tuberculosis symptoms can include:

  • a persistent cough lasting longer than 3 weeks – coughing up blood or phlegm
  • weight loss
  • night sweats
  • high temperature or fever
  • extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • loss of appetite

Extrapulmonary Tuberculosis can have similar symptoms to Pulmonary Tuberculosis but can also present in different ways, including localised pain.

Out of these 3 Tuberculosis strands, generally Pulmonary Tuberculosis is the only one that is infectious and can be spread. This is spread when the infected person coughs causing droplets to enter the air around them leading to others inhaling these droplets.

The people who are unaffected can also be infected from picking up the bacterial infection from contaminated surfaces they may touch, or if they live with the infected person for a prolonged time and have a lot of close contact to them.

Those who are at an increased risk of contracting Tuberculosis include:

  • those who have visited a country where rates of Tuberculosis are high
  • people who were born in a country with high incidence of Tuberculosis
  • those who have both HIV and Latent Tuberculosis are more likely to develop Pulmonary Tuberculosis

How to treat

Individuals at a higher risk of contracting Tuberculosis (for example, those moving to the UK from a country with a high incidence of Tuberculosis) will be required to complete the pre-entry screening before entering the UK.

Once in the UK, screening will be offered to those aged 16 to 35 years old from high-risk countries by the local healthcare system under the Latent Tuberculosis screening programme.

If the person tests positive for Tuberculosis a treatment course will be prescribed entailing a course of antibiotics lasting a minimum of 6 months. This may vary dependent on the type of Tuberculosis diagnosed.

The person will also be monitored by the specialist team to ensure the patient follows treatment schedule and fully recovers. 

Prevention

Tuberculosis can be prevented and controlled using the following methods.

People at risk should:

  • ensure screening appointments are attended if requested by the healthcare team
  • if in regular contact with someone with Tuberculosis and at risk of catching it, contact GP for appointment
  • make a GP appointment if symptoms develop to prevent further spread of infection

Teams should:

  • screen at-risk groups
  • conduct active case finding in under-served groups
  • promote recognition of cases and investigation of contacts of case
  • carry out adequate and complete treatment of known cases
  • provide Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccinations for babies and children most at risk

BCG vaccinations

Adults

For the majority of all adults the BCG vaccination is rarely given. However, adults who are at risk of Tuberculosis through their work, such as healthcare workers, abattoir workers and veterinary workers, will be offered it.

Children

Children aged 16 and under may be recommended the BCG vaccine if they:

  • have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country where there is a high rate of Tuberculosis
  • have just arrived from a country with high levels of Tuberculosis.
  • have lived with local people for longer than 3 months in countries with high Tuberculosis rate
  • live with or are close contacts of someone with infectious Tuberculosis

Babies

The BCG vaccination is also recommended for babies up to 1 year old who:

  • are born in areas of the UK with high Tuberculosis rates
  • have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country where there is a high rate of Tuberculosis
  • live with or are close contacts of someone with infectious Tuberculosis

Reporting Tuberculosis

The local Public Health – Health Protection Team for North and West Northamptonshire work closely with UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency). They use routine surveillance programmes to monitor the spread of infectious diseases and provide support to prevent and control infection in establishments such as hospitals, care homes and schools.

As Tuberculosis is a notifiable disease in England, it is important the health professionals inform East Midlands UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) of any cases for early identification and management of cases to prevent onward transmission of this disease.

Contact details for East Midlands UKHSA

Telephone: 0344 2254 524 (option 1)
Email: [email protected] 

These are not constantly monitored out of hours.

Further information

Last updated 12 October 2022