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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Tuberculosis

Introduction

Tuberculosis is found throughout the world. Areas of particular risk include Africa and Asia. 60% of cases globally are found in 6 countries: India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection due to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread through respiratory contact (coughs, sneezes from an infected individual) but the disease can affect any part of the body.

The Illness

Tuberculosis symptoms are varied and can depend upon the part of the body that has been infected. General symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, night sweats and tiredness.

Respiratory tuberculosis can cause persistent, productive cough and may be accompanied by blood-streaked sputum. 

The disease is treatable if diagnosed and treatment is completed. The illness is more severe in children, those with other underlying illness (particularly HIV) and in smokers. 95% of deaths from TB occur in developing countries.

Treatment

Treatment for tuberculosis is with combination drug therapy over a minimum of 6 months. Information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer assists treatment adherence.

Recommendations for Travellers

In the United Kingdom, routine BCG vaccination for teenagers was discontinued in 2005.

BCG may be required for those who have not previously been vaccinated and are tuberculin negative, according to the destination and the nature of travel. The vaccine is recommended for those under 16 years of age who are going to live and work with local people for more than three months in an area where the incidence of tuberculosis is high.

If you have concerns regarding exposure to tuberculosis and travel please speak to your travel health practitioner for more information. 

Further Information

 

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