This month, our health expert answers your question on tuberculosis. Advice comes from Dr David Honeybourne from the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.
I have recently returned from a country I have since discovered has a high proportion of people who suffer from tuberculosis. What is the risk to me of getting the disease?
Dr David Honeybourne says:
With the introduction of antibiotics, tuberculosis (TB) is much rarer in the UK than in the past. There were nearly 8,000 cases of the disease in the UK last year, of which around 1,000 were found in the West Midlands.
Most instances of the disease tend to be found in ethnic minorities from countries where the disease is common, or in people who have travelled to one of these countries recently.
TB is also more common in the very young or old, those poor in health and people living in poor or crowded housing conditions.
TB will not cause any symptoms until the infection has reached the lungs. Signs to look out for are – persistent cough, breathlessness, weight loss, lack of appetite, fever and fatigue. If you have a cough lasting more than three weeks or are coughing up blood, visit your GP as soon as possible.
If you are displaying TB symptoms, diagnosis usually involves a chest x-ray. Samples of mucus and phlegm may also be taken and studied under a microscope. If you are diagnosed with TB you will be contagious until you have been receiving treatment for between two to three weeks.
To prevent further spread of the infection, always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, carefully dispose of any used tissues, stay away from work or college and avoid sleeping in the same room as other people.
Even if you display none of these symptoms, there is screening available to test if the TB infection is present in the body.
If you are worried about your health and potential risk of contracting TB, visit your GP or call NHS direct on 0845 4647.