TB was once a major illness, now a rarity
TUBERCULOSIS, commonly known as TB, is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in your body.
It is most often found in the lungs.
Most people exposed to TB never develop symptoms because the bacteria can live in an inactive form in the body.
But if the immune system weakens, such as in people with HIV or elderly adults, TB bacteria can become active.
The bacteria cause death of tissue in the organs they infect.
Active TB disease can be fatal if left untreated.
Because the bacteria are transmitted through the air, the disease can be contagious.
People with latent TB are not infectious but people with TB disease of the lungs or throat can be infectious.
Infection is most likely to occur if you are exposed to someone with active TB on a day-to-day basis, such as by living or working with them.
Even then, because the bacteria generally stay latent after they invade the body, only a small number of infected people will ever have the active disease.
Once widespread, TB was virtually wiped out with the help of antibiotics developed in the 1950s.
Australia has one of the lowest notification rates of TB in the world.
The most recent records show that in 2013 5.5 people in every 100,000 were diagnosed with the disease.
For non-indigenous people born in Australia, the notification rate is about 0.7 per 100,000.
- Chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum
- Night sweats
- Weight loss