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Travel Health Advice - Tuberculosis


What is it? Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection characterised by coughing with sputum, chest pain, loss of weight and appetite, lumps or lesions, and clubbing of toes/fingers. Symptoms result in only 5-10% of cases, particularly where the immune system is weakened. This means that patients may be contagious without knowing it. Certain strains of tuberculosis have multidrug resistance which makes treatment more difficult. How is it transmitted? Tuberculosis is transmitted from human to human via airborne droplets. Where is it present? Worldwide, but more prevalent in developing countries. Level of risk? The risk of contracting tuberculosis is very low, but increases with more time spent in a high-risk destination, and time spent in high-risk environments like health facilities, shelters and prisons. What can I do to prevent getting it? The BCG vaccine is often prescribed for infants and young children but is of limited use for adults. The only true prevention is avoiding contact with infected people. Before travel to a high-risk area take a baseline tuberculin skin test to compare against on return. Treatment: The standard cure is two months treatment with isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol, followed by a further four months of isoniazid and rifampicin. It is crucial that the prescribed course of treatment is completed in full. Patients under treatment may not travel until tests conclude they are not infectious.

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