Everything you need to know about Tuberculosis
What is TB?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by germs that are spread from person to person through
the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body, such as the
brain, kidneys or the spine.
How is TB spread?
When a person with TB of the lungs coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, TB germs from the lungs
are expelled into the air. TB germs can survive longer in a dark enclosed place and remain
suspended in the air for several hours. These germs can be inhaled by anyone who shares
the same air and cause infection.
How can TB infection be prevented?
TB can be prevented by:
l Covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing
l Opening windows and doors at home and in crowded rooms, churches, buildings and
l Exercising regularly
l Eating enough healthy food
l Stopping smoking
l Avoiding alcohol intake
l Visiting the clinic if you have been in contact with someone with TB or if you have any of
the symptoms of TB.
How do I know if I have TB?
You may have TB if you have any of these symptoms:
l A cough for two weeks or more
l Night sweats
l Unexplained loss of weight
I THINK I MAY HAVE TB? WHAT SHOULD I DO?
If you think you have TB, visit your nearest clinic for a FREE TB TEST. The nurses will ask you to
cough into a bottle and your sputum specimen will be sent to the laboratory for examination.
If you have TB, you will be given medicine right away. There is no charge for TB medicine.
Health care workers and treatment supporters will help you take your medicines everyday
for as long as you need.
Can TB be cured?
TB disease can be cured if treated early. You should take the medicine for at least six months.
It is very important to take the medicines as prescribed and finish all of them. If you stop
taking anti TB drugs too soon, you could get sick again. You could also get a kind of TB that
will not respond to the common medicines used to treat it (Drug-Resistant TB.
Wht must the treatment be taken for a full six months?
A combination of four different medicines are used to treat TB disease. This is because the TB
germ is difficult to kill and we also need to make sure that all the germs hiding in the different
parts of the body are killed. Even though you will start feeling better and your symptoms will
go away after two weeks of taking treatment, do not stop taking the medicines. The germs
that will still be alive in your body will get a chance to grow and multiply creating stronger
germs if you give them the chance.
Do TB medicines have side effects?
Yes, like any other medication TB medicines has side effects. The common side effects are
rashes, itching, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, burning sensation in the feet, red or orange
urine and yellow eyes. If you develop any of these side effects report them to your nurse or
doctor and they will provide you with appropriate treatment to relieve these symptoms.
Can I use traditional medicine to cure TB whiile on TB treatment?
No, you must not use traditional medicine together with TB medicine because this may
cause other side effects or prevent TB medicines from working well. It is important to take
your TB medication every day for six months to be cured, and to stop using traditional
medicine while taking TB treatment.
TB and HIV
People who are living with HIV are more at risk of getting TB infection and disease. If you are
HIV-positive you must report symptoms of TB and request to be tested at your nearest clinic.
If you have TB, and are HIV positive you can be started on antiretroviral treatment early to
improve your response to TB medicines and prevent death. If you do not have TB you can
be started on TB preventive treatment, this treatment will help prevent you from getting TB
disease. Therefore, you must get tested for HIV and know your status.
What you need to know about drug-resistant TB
For more information about TB and drug-resistant TB, contact the national or provincial health office:
National TB Control Programme - 012 395 8815 / 8074
Eastern Cape - 040 608 0814/1408
Free State - 015 408 1429/1588
Gauteng - 011 355 3098
KwaZulu Natal - 033 935 2918/2586
Limpopo - 015 290 9188
Mpumalanga - 013 766 3046
North West - 018 387 1921/8
Northern Cape - 053 830 0529
Western Cape - 021 483 3647/5432