Torbay Council’s Public Health team is highlighting the risks of tuberculosis (TB) for TB World Day taking place on Tuesday 24 March 2015.

TB is a curable illness, caused by airborne bacteria, anyone can get it and the number of people getting ill with it in the UK is increasing. However, numbers in Devon are typically low and it is curable.

When someone with infectious TB coughs or sneezes, they send droplets into the air that contain TB germs. TB is airborne and can only be contracted by being exposed to the germs and subsequently breathing them in over a period of hours.

Normally, a person's immune system will wipe out any germs, if it does not get rid of them, and there is only a small chance of getting ill. If it does progress, symptoms will develop over the course of weeks and months.

It is also possible for the germs to lie dormant in the body without becoming ill or spreading infection. However, these germs can become active months, or even years, after they have first been breathed in.

Anyone who has any of the listed symptoms should go to their GP straight away. The sooner they are treated, the less likely they are to become more seriously ill or to pass TB on to their family or friends.

TB is most likely to affect the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body. Common symptoms to look out for:

  • A cough that lasts for over three weeks
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

With treatment, a TB infection can usually be cured. Most people will need a course of antibiotics, usually for six months. Several different antibiotics are used. This is because some forms of TB are resistant to certain antibiotics. If you are infected with a drug-resistant form of TB, treatment can last as long as 18 months.

If you are in close contact with someone who has TB, tests may be carried out to see if you are also infected. These can include a chest x-ray, blood tests and a skin test called the Mantoux test.

For more information, contact your GP or visit

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