Tuberculosis

Yes, Tuberculosis (TB) still exists. Spread from person to person through the air, this contagious disease is caused by breathing in a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually infects the lungs but it can also attack other parts of the body. The Lung Health Foundation is committed to supporting those affected by this treatable disease. Here you will find ‘need to know’ info that will help you understand TB, how it is treated, and what to do if you or someone you know contracts it.

Get in touch with one of our Certified Respiratory Educators by calling the Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864)

People who are sick with active TB disease spread TB bacteria through the air when they cough or sneeze. It’s important for people with TB to get treatment right away. TB treatment can cure TB and prevent it from spreading to others.

    • New or worsening cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks or keeps getting worse
    • Night sweats
    • Feeling of tiredness or weakness
    • Chills
    • Loss of appetite
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Chest pain
    • Fever
    • Others (based on where TB bacteria are located in the body)

    If a person has symptoms, they should contact their health-care provider immediately.

    Several tests are required to determine if TB bacteria are present in the body and if it is active or inactive. These tests may include a tuberculin skin test, a chest x-ray and sputum tests.

      TB infection can be treated with medications that eliminate the TB bacteria in the body and reduce the likelihood that a person will develop active TB disease later in their life. TB treatment usually takes 6 months or longer, depending on how sick a person may be.

      Treatment for TB infection

      If a person has latent TB infection, there are TB bacteria in the body, but the person will not have any symptoms. TB infection can be treated to prevent a person from becoming sick with active TB disease in the future. TB medications and treatments are free in Ontario.

      TB infection is often treated with a medication called isoniazid (INH). Most people are prescribed this medication daily for 9 months. It’s very important for a person to take their TB medication as directed by their health care provider.

      If a person stops taking their TB medications or misses’ doses, the following events could happen:

      • The TB infection could develop into active TB disease. With active TB in the lungs, a person will have symptoms and may spread the TB bacteria to others.
      • The TB bacteria may become even stronger, making the bacteria harder to treat. This is called drug-resistant TB and it is very dangerous

      Treatment for active TB disease

      If a person has active TB disease, their health care provider will prescribe medication to cure them. TB medications and treatments are free in Ontario.

      TB medications can cure TB. They eliminate the TB bacteria in the body. Active TB disease is usually treated with a combination of antibiotics. These are the most common medications to cure TB are:

      • Isoniazid (INH)
      • Rifampin (RMP)
      • Pyrazinamide (PZA)
      • Ethambutol (EMB)

      A health-care provider will decide which medications are best for a person with active TB disease, and how long the person must take them to be cured. TB bacteria are hard to kill, so it is very important for a person to take their medications as directed by their health care provider.

      If a person stops taking their TB medications early, the following events could happen:

      • The TB bacteria may become stronger making the bacteria harder to treat. This is called drug-resistant TB. If a person has drug resistant TB, they will need to take more medications that may cause severe side effects.
      • The TB bacteria could spread to other parts of the body.
      • TB disease could come back.

      A health-care provider will also determine when a person is no longer infections and able to return to school/work. This usually depends on if a person is feeling better and how they respond to TB treatment.

      • People who have had close and prolonged contact with someone with active TB disease
      • People who have lived or travelled to areas of the world where TB is common
      • People who have lived on a First Nations reserve or in an Inuit community
      • People who have weakened immune systems that reduce their ability to fight infection
      • People who drink alcohol heavily.
      • People who are homeless or live in shelters and hostels
      • Staff and residents of long-term care facilities, hospitals and correctional facilities
      • People who smoke
      • Smoking may increase the risk of becoming infected with TB by up to three times, and exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of becoming infected with TB in both children and adults.

      Why does tuberculous matter in Ontario?

      Tuberculosis continues to be a public health concern in Ontario. Although the TB rate has slowly declined, Ontario faces new challenges in TB prevention and control.

      There are a large number of people in Ontario that have latent TB infection. People who are born in or have travelled to countries where TB is common and have weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing active TB disease sometime in their lives. In Ontario, medication to prevent active TB disease is free.

      How many people get infected with TB?

      Worldwide, 1 in 3 people are infected with the TB bacteria. More than 10 million people get sick with TB disease every year.

      How do you get TB?

      People get TB from breathing in air which has been coughed or sneezed out by someone who has active TB in the lungs.

      Are there different types of TB?

      There are two types of TB, latent TB infection and active TB disease:

      1. TB infection means that you have TB bacteria in your body, but the bacteria are inactive. The person will not have symptoms of TB and will not will not be able to spread the bacteria to other people.
      2. Active TB disease means that you have TB bacteria in your body and it is active. The person will have symptoms of TB and if it is in the lungs, the person will be able to spread the bacteria to others.

      Active TB disease in parts of the body outside of the lungs is not infectious.

      People who are sick with active TB disease spread TB bacteria through the air when they cough or sneeze. It’s important for people with TB to get treatment right away. TB treatment can cure TB and prevent it from spreading to others.

        • New or worsening cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks or keeps getting worse
        • Night sweats
        • Feeling of tiredness or weakness
        • Chills
        • Loss of appetite
        • Unexplained weight loss
        • Chest pain
        • Fever
        • Others (based on where TB bacteria are located in the body)

        If a person has symptoms, they should contact their health-care provider immediately.

        Several tests are required to determine if TB bacteria are present in the body and if it is active or inactive. These tests may include a tuberculin skin test, a chest x-ray and sputum tests.

          TB infection can be treated with medications that eliminate the TB bacteria in the body and reduce the likelihood that a person will develop active TB disease later in their life. TB treatment usually takes 6 months or longer, depending on how sick a person may be.

          Treatment for TB infection

          If a person has latent TB infection, there are TB bacteria in the body, but the person will not have any symptoms. TB infection can be treated to prevent a person from becoming sick with active TB disease in the future. TB medications and treatments are free in Ontario.

          TB infection is often treated with a medication called isoniazid (INH). Most people are prescribed this medication daily for 9 months. It’s very important for a person to take their TB medication as directed by their health care provider.

          If a person stops taking their TB medications or misses’ doses, the following events could happen:

          • The TB infection could develop into active TB disease. With active TB in the lungs, a person will have symptoms and may spread the TB bacteria to others.
          • The TB bacteria may become even stronger, making the bacteria harder to treat. This is called drug-resistant TB and it is very dangerous

          Treatment for active TB disease

          If a person has active TB disease, their health care provider will prescribe medication to cure them. TB medications and treatments are free in Ontario.

          TB medications can cure TB. They eliminate the TB bacteria in the body. Active TB disease is usually treated with a combination of antibiotics. These are the most common medications to cure TB are:

          • Isoniazid (INH)
          • Rifampin (RMP)
          • Pyrazinamide (PZA)
          • Ethambutol (EMB)

          A health-care provider will decide which medications are best for a person with active TB disease, and how long the person must take them to be cured. TB bacteria are hard to kill, so it is very important for a person to take their medications as directed by their health care provider.

          If a person stops taking their TB medications early, the following events could happen:

          • The TB bacteria may become stronger making the bacteria harder to treat. This is called drug-resistant TB. If a person has drug resistant TB, they will need to take more medications that may cause severe side effects.
          • The TB bacteria could spread to other parts of the body.
          • TB disease could come back.

          A health-care provider will also determine when a person is no longer infections and able to return to school/work. This usually depends on if a person is feeling better and how they respond to TB treatment.

          • People who have had close and prolonged contact with someone with active TB disease
          • People who have lived or travelled to areas of the world where TB is common
          • People who have lived on a First Nations reserve or in an Inuit community
          • People who have weakened immune systems that reduce their ability to fight infection
          • People who drink alcohol heavily.
          • People who are homeless or live in shelters and hostels
          • Staff and residents of long-term care facilities, hospitals and correctional facilities
          • People who smoke
          • Smoking may increase the risk of becoming infected with TB by up to three times, and exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of becoming infected with TB in both children and adults.

          Why does tuberculous matter in Ontario?

          Tuberculosis continues to be a public health concern in Ontario. Although the TB rate has slowly declined, Ontario faces new challenges in TB prevention and control.

          There are a large number of people in Ontario that have latent TB infection. People who are born in or have travelled to countries where TB is common and have weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing active TB disease sometime in their lives. In Ontario, medication to prevent active TB disease is free.

          How many people get infected with TB?

          Worldwide, 1 in 3 people are infected with the TB bacteria. More than 10 million people get sick with TB disease every year.

          How do you get TB?

          People get TB from breathing in air which has been coughed or sneezed out by someone who has active TB in the lungs.

          Are there different types of TB?

          There are two types of TB, latent TB infection and active TB disease:

          1. TB infection means that you have TB bacteria in your body, but the bacteria are inactive. The person will not have symptoms of TB and will not will not be able to spread the bacteria to other people.
          2. Active TB disease means that you have TB bacteria in your body and it is active. The person will have symptoms of TB and if it is in the lungs, the person will be able to spread the bacteria to others.

          Active TB disease in parts of the body outside of the lungs is not infectious.