Fighting TB together

We commemorate World TB Day on March 24 every year to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis, commonly known as TB. 

Despite significant progress over the last decades, TB continues to be the top infectious killer worldwide, claiming over 4 500 lives a day.

What is TB?

TB is a bacterial infection caused by a bacterium Mycobacterium Tuberculosis also known as Koch’s bacillus. It spreads through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in the body but is usually found in the lungs. Other areas affected include the spine, brain and kidneys.

Dr checking teenager girl's vitals

How is TB spread?

TB is a highly infectious disease that spread’s through the air when a person with TB coughs, sneezes, speaks, o

r sings.  Although the TB bacteria can live in your body without developing symptoms, if it’s not treated properly, TB can be fatal.

TB progresses from latent TB infection into a TB disease. This means that TB bacteria can live in your body without developing symptoms. People with latent TB infection don’t feel sick immediately because their bodies are able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.  Only once the TB bacteria become active in your body, your immune system begins to weaken.


Symptoms to look out for

TB bacteria most commonly grow in the lungs, and can cause symptoms:

  • a bad cough that does not respond to medication,
  • weakness or fatigue,
  • weight loss,
  • loss of appetite,
  • night sweats,
  • pain in the chest,
  • coughing up blood or sputum (mucus from deep inside the lungs), and
  • chills caused by fever.

Anyone can get TB, but people at high risk generally fall into two categories:Young man taking his TB medication

1. People recently infected with TB bacteria.

2. People with medical conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV and diabetes.

You are at increased risk for being infected if:

  • You have spent time with a person with TB disease.
  • You are from a country or have visited areas where TB disease is very common.
  • You live or work where TB disease is more common, such as a homeless shelter, prison or jail, or long-term care facility.
  • You are a health-care worker who works with clients or patients who are at increased risk for TB disease.

Interesting stats to consider 

A more dangerous form of TB is drug resistant TB (MDR TB). This is when the TB bacteria you’re infected with, doesn’t respond to some of TB medication.

South Africa falls under the 27 high burden drug resistant countries, which means we have at least 4 000 cases of MDR TB each year and/or at least 10% of TB cases reported, are MDR TB.

Cases reported 

Year Drug sensitive TB Drug resistant TB
Drug resistant TB
Incidence rate / 100 00
2017 45000 1450 122 728.4
2016 42580 1511 196 696.1
2015 43294 1500 252 721.2
2014 43042 1162 152 723.5
2013 44761 1133 96 764.3
2012 46096 1288 123 804.7

Source: Western Cape Department of Health

The Western Cape Department of Health statistics show a decline of TB cases since 2008.

According to the Department, the focus for 2018/19 with regard to finding TB cases will be to identify and target high risk group for screening and testing.

Reported TB cases per year from Western Cape Department of Health

Getting the help you need

Free testing and TB treatment is available at all the public health facilities in province including City of Cape Town municipal clinics. There are 6 TB hospitals in the province:

Together, we can stop the spread of TB

The content on this page was last updated on 22 March 2018