TB Awareness

Over the last decade the UK has seen a year on year rise in cases of tuberculosis (TB).  This has been mirrored in Grampian with the number of cases on the increase. The TB in the UK report is based on data from all of the uk. The most recent and archived reports can be found by clicking on this link.

Detecting TB in high risk groups

The main risk factor for TB infection in Scotland, excluding place of birth is problem alcohol use. However incidence of TB is influenced by – and associated with – other social risk factors as well. These include poor nutrition, poor access to healthcare, homelessness, problem drug use and imprisonment.  It is of note that some of these groups are almost hidden within the community, unlikely to register with GPs and access primary care. They may present late and adhere poorly to treatment, increasing the risk of spread of TB and emerging drug resistance.  TB is one of a number of diseases that contributes to the continuing inequality in health experienced by those living in deprived communities relative to those in affluent communities.

Tuberculosis: The Facts

What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis or TB is a disease caused by bacteria that can affect any part of the body, often the lungs.

What are the symptoms?
In early disease there may be no symptoms. As the TB disease develops individuals may experience some or all of the following:

  • Cough, sometimes with sputum (spit) which can be blood stained
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever/sweating, especially at night
  • Tightness of the chest or chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sometimes lumps (swollen lymph nodes) in the neck

If you see someone who has any of the symptoms they should be encouraged to see their doctor as soon as possible, who can arrange any necessary tests and treatment.

How is it diagnosed?
When Tuberculosis is suspected a range of investigations are undertaken. These may include taking samples of sputum (spit), a chest X-ray or occasionally a simple skin test on the forearm.

Is it infectious?
Some types of TB are infectious, mainly TB of the lung, so the infection could be passed on to someone else. Close contact over a long period of time, usually more than 8 hours, with someone who has the infectious type of TB is usually needed to pass on the disease. Other types of TB that do not affect the lungs are not usually considered infectious.

How is it spread?
Tuberculosis is spread by a person suffering from the disease coughing the bacteria from their lungs into the air. Some of the bacteria may remain suspended in the air for a period of time particularly in an enclosed environment. Another person may then breathe in these bacteria. The body’s defence mechanisms usually get rid of the bacteria before it can cause disease.

How is it treated?
If you see someone who has any of the symptoms they should be encouraged to see their doctor as soon as possible, who can arrange any necessary tests and treatment.  Treatment is by a combination of medicines for a period of at least 6 months.  If left untreated TB can have fatal consequences.


If you have any concerns or want more information about TB contact:

Susan Duthie
TB Specialist Nurse
01224 558520

National Action Plan

An action plan to help health professionals in Scotland tackle tuberculosis was published on 21st March 2011 – A TB Action Plan for Scotland.

The action plan is designed to tackle this trend by ensuring Scotland increases the effectiveness of its:

  • laboratory services and diagnostic tests
  • clinical services
  • surveillance and contact tracing
  • public health services including neonatal immunisation

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