Tuberculosis fears are mounting after a child tests positive for the disease in Western Australia.
North Perth daycare centres have received letters notifying parents of an outbreak of tuberculosis.
People who may have had contact with a sick child are being advised to look out for symptoms such as tiredness, weight loss and a cough.
Basic facts About TB
What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis is a disease caused by a bacteria called Mycobacteria tuberculosis. The most common site of infection with TB bacteria is the lungs. However, TB bacteria can infect other parts of the body, including the kidneys, spine, brain, and other organs. Not all people infected with TB bacteria become ill. Because of this, there are two types of TB-related diseases: latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI), and tuberculosis disease. If left untreated, TB disease is a life-threatening disease.
How TB Spreads
Bacterial infections caused by tuberculosis (TB) are transmitted through the air. When someone with tuberculosis (TB) of the lung or throat sneezes, coughs, talks, or barks, TB bacteria can enter the air. People around them may inhale these bacteria.
TB is NOT spread by
- shaking someone’s hand
- sharing food or drink
- touching bed linens or toilet seats
- sharing toothbrushes
Breathing in TB bacteria can cause the bacteria to settle in your lungs and start growing. From there, the bacteria can spread through your bloodstream to other parts of your body, such as your kidneys, spine, or brain.
If you have TB disease in your lungs or throat, it can be transmitted to others. In contrast, if you have TB in your kidney or spine, it is usually not transmitted to others.
People who have TB are more likely to spread the disease to those they spend time with on a daily basis. This includes your family, friends, coworkers, or schoolmates.
TB Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of TB disease depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. TB bacteria usually grow in the lungs (pulmonary TB). TB disease in the lungs may cause symptoms such as
- a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
- pain in the chest
- coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
Other symptoms of TB disease are
- weakness or fatigue
- weight loss
- no appetite
- sweating at night
Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.
People who have latent TB infection
- do not feel sick,
- do not have any symptoms, and
- cannot spread TB to others.
Preventing Latent TB Infection from Progressing to TB Disease
Most people with latent TB infection never develop TB disease. However, certain individuals with latent TB infection are at an increased risk of developing TB disease. People with latent TB infection include:
- People with HIV infection
- People who became infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years
- Babies and young children
- People who inject illegal drugs
- People who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system
- Elderly people
- People who were not treated correctly for TB in the past
If you are one of the high-risk groups for latent TB infection and are taking medicine to prevent TB disease, there are several treatment options available. You and your doctor must determine which treatment is right for you. By taking your medicine as directed, it can prevent you from developing tuberculosis. Treatment for latent TB is much simpler than treatment for tuberculosis. A person with tuberculosis has a large number of TB bacteria in their body. To treat tuberculosis, several drugs must be taken.
Preventing Exposure to TB Disease While Traveling Abroad
Tuberculosis (TB) is much more prevalent in many countries than it is in the U.S. It is important for travelers to avoid close contact or long-term exposure to known TB patients in busy, enclosed settings (e.g., clinics, hospitals, jails, homeless shelters, etc.).
Although MDR and XDR TB are on the rise around the world, they are still very rare. HIV infected travelers are most at risk if they come into contact with a person who has MDR or is infected with XDR.
There is relatively little risk of infection with any type of TB when traveling by air. However, if you will be working in a clinic, hospital, or any other health care setting where you are likely to come into contact with TB patients, it is recommended that you seek advice from an infection control professional or an occupational health professional. Ask for information on administrative and environmental procedures to prevent exposure to TB, and once those procedures are in place, consider implementing additional measures such as personal respiratory protective devices (PRDs).
If you expect to be exposed to people with TB for an extended period of time (e.g., if you expect to come into contact with people from clinics, hospitals, prisons, or homeless shelters on a regular basis), you should do a TB skin test before you leave the United States and a TB blood test after you return. If the test results are negative, you should do a repeat test 8-10 weeks after you get back to the U.S. You may also need to do an annual test if you anticipate repeated or long-term exposure or a long-term stay in the United States over the course of several years. Because people who are HIV positive are more susceptible to impaired responses to TB tests, you should inform your physicians about your HIV infection status.