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Tuberculosis (TB) Control Unit

The TB Control Unit opened on 4 January 2016 and responsible for managing TB, Latent TB and associated screening and education across the whole of Torres and Cape HHS.

Please contact your nearest health facility or email the TB Unit for all TB-related enquiries.

Six facts about TB

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1. Most people can fight TB germs without becoming sick

Without treatment, only 5-10% of people infected with TB germs will develop active TB disease in their lifetime. Active TB disease happens when the body cannot stop the TB germ from multiplying, and you get sick. Active TB can be infectious.  Usually, the body can stop TB germs spreading, causing latent or sleeping TB. If someone has latent or sleeping TB, you can’t catch TB from them.  Some people may be at higher risk of developing active TB disease, such as those with HIV/AIDS or diabetes. If you do not smoke, avoid alcohol and live in a healthy way, you are less likely to get TB disease, even if you are infected.

2. TB is spread between people by germs in the air

Generally, people with untreated, ‘active’ TB disease in the lungs can spread TB.  If they cough, laugh, sneeze, sing or talk, TB germs are expelled into the air and can be inhaled by other people.  But one breath is not enough to be infected. You must share air with a person with TB disease over a long period of time to become infected.

3. TB disease may have the same signs as other common illnesses

People with active TB usually have TB germs in their lungs. This can cause a cough of more than 2-3 weeks, fever, night sweats and weight loss without trying. A person with active TB might feel more tired than usual and might have chest pain. In some cases they might also cough up blood. It is very important to go directly to a Primary Health Centre immediately if you have any of these signs and symptoms.

4. There are several tests for TB

If a health professional thinks you might have active TB, they will ask you to cough up into a cup. This will be examined for TB germs. They may also arrange a chest X-ray which may show TB in the lungs.

5. TB is curable with a long course of antibiotics

Active TB disease is treated with at least 6 months of strong antibiotics. At least three or four antibiotics are needed to kill all of the TB germs forever. Every dose of medication is vital. Treatment is started in Thursday Island or Cairns Hospital. Once the patient is no longer infectious, they can finish the treatment at home.  Depending on the patient, the doctor may suggest that tablets are taken with a health professional every day.

6. Multi-drug resistant TB is caused by people not completing their antibiotics

You can catch multi-drug resistant TB the same way as normal TB, from someone with ‘active’ TB disease.  Multi-drug resistant TB can happen if you get normal TB and do not take the whole antibiotic treatment. If you don’t have all the antibiotics the TB germ survives longer, and becomes stronger.  You must take ALL the antibiotics for the whole time to prevent the spread of TB and prevent resistance.

You CAN be infected with TB by:

  • Breathing in TB germs in the air over time
  • Sharing water pipes (bongs)

You CANNOT be infected with TB by:

  • Sharing clothes
  • Sharing food
  • Sharing water glasses or utensils
  • Shaking hands
  • Touching the same objects
  • Mosquito bites
  • Intimate sexual relations

TB symptoms

Last updated: 20 December 2021