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Mar 07, 2024

Tuberculosis, often referred to as TB, remains a significant health concern, especially in South Africa.

What are the symptoms of TB and what steps do you need to take if you suspect you've contracted it?

How do you contract TB?

TB is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This makes it highly contagious. TB primarily affects the lungs but can also target other parts of the body such as the kidneys, spine, and brain.

What are the symptoms of TB?

Recognising the symptoms of TB is crucial for early diagnosis and effective treatment. The disease can manifest in different ways and, unfortunately, symptoms may overlap with those of other illnesses.

Common symptoms of TB include:

  • Persistent coughing that lasts three weeks or more
  • Coughing up blood or phlegm
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

However, TB can also be asymptomatic. This means that a person may carry the bacteria without exhibiting any noticeable symptoms. This is known as a latent TB infection.

What to do if you suspect you have contracted TB?

If you suspect you've contracted TB or are experiencing any of the symptoms of TB, you need to seek medical treatment immediately. Fortunately, TB is a treatable and curable disease, but early diagnoses is essential to a quick and full recovery.

Practicing good hygiene is also essential to stopping the spread of TB. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoid close contact with people who have active TB until they are no longer infectious.

People with a higher risk of contracting TB, like those living with HIV/AIDS or diabetes should also take extra precautions and should make regular TB screenings a habit.



World Health Organization. Tuberculosis. Accessed 2024. Available here.

CDC. How TB Spreads. Accessed 2024. Available here.

Mayo Clinic. Tuberculosis. Accessed 2024. Available here.

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