Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious bacterial infection infection that can lead to a serious infection. TB is thought to cause approximate 3 million deaths each year, which is more than any other infectious disease. Despite a huge global vaccination campaign – known as the BCG vaccination – the number of TB cases is on the rise throughout London. It was recently reported that parts of the Capital have higher levels of TB rates than third world countries such as Rwanda.
Worryingly, the BCG vaccination is thought to be only 60-80% effective, and relies on what’s known as ‘herd immunity’ – whereby a large proportion of a population is immune to the disease, resulting in a smaller chance of disease outbreak amongst few members of the population who aren’t immune.
What is tuberculosis?
TB is an infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, spread by droplet infection. This is when someone actively infected with TB coughs or sneezes, and the bacteria are carried via these tiny water droplets into the air, where they can be inhaled by someone else.
Once the TB bacteria are introduced to the lungs, they begin to multiply there.
In healthy people, a mild TB infection may be successfully fought off by the body’s immune system, leaving just a small scar on the lungs, visible on a chest X-ray.
In less fortunate cases, the TB bacteria may multiply further, with TB symptoms becoming apparent approximately 6-8 weeks after first contact with the infection. An active TB infection, with the above symptoms, can happen to anyone, but is more likely to occur in those who have poor health – hence why TB cases are usually higher in poverty-stricken countries.
In some cases, TB infection can lie dormant for months to years, as the body’s immune system fights the bacterial infection without managing to kill all trace of the TB bacteria. This TB infection can then be ‘reactivated’ if the immune system is weakened for any reason, for example in the elderly, malnourished, immunosuppressed or alcoholics.
What are the symptoms of TB?
- Lasting 3+ weeks
- Sometimes blood-stained
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
Symptoms of TB infection in other parts of the body:
- Swollen lymph glands
- Stomach pain
In severe cases, TB infection can spread throughout the body, resulting in bladder infections, inflammation around the heart, and even meningitis.
How can you catch Tuberculosis?
To catch TB, you must inhale the infected water droplets from the cough or sneeze of someone with active TB infection. This is normally after prolonged contact with the infected person, such as living together.
Tuberculosis infections are more common in developing countries.
How can you protect yourself against TB?
The best way to protect against TB is to get vaccinated against it. The BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccination is one of the few vaccinations that leaves a small circular scar. This vaccine is given to 100 million children globally per year.
But how do you know this vaccine has worked?
There are two ways of testing for TB immunity: the Mantoux skin test, or the Quantiferon-TB Gold blood tests. As a private GP clinic we offer the second – the Quantiferon – as this is the better, ‘Gold Star’ test for TB antibodies. Costing just £100, with results available in 3 days, this test offers peace of mind of your immunity to a harmful disease that is back on the rise across London.
Book in today at any of our convenient central London clinics, and your options can be discussed during a 15-minute private GP consultation.