Help us fight TB | Western Cape Government

Help us fight TB


TB AwarenessDespite significant progress over the last few decades, Tuberculosis (TB) continues to be the top infectious killer worldwide, claiming over 4 500 lives a day.

What is TB?

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

How is TB spread?

TB is a highly infectious disease that spreads through the air when a person with TB coughs, sneezes, speaks,  or 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 the disease TB. People with latent TB infection don’t feel sick immediately because their bodies can fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.  Only once the TB bacteria become active in your body, your immune system begins to weaken.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of TB is a persistent cough that lasts more than two weeks. Other symptoms include:

  • Discoloured or bloody sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Pain in the chest while breathing or coughing.
  • Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite. 
  • Drenching night sweats. 
  • General feeling of illness or fever for more than two weeks.

TB isn’t only a poor person’s disease; anyone can get infected. It’s important to get tested if you have these symptoms. You can get free testing at one of our clinics. Testing is done by taking two sputum samples and the results are normally available after 2 to 3 days.

What’ll happen if you have TB?

TB treatment is free from the clinic. You’ll be started on TB medication, and the treatment is taken for 6 to 8 months. A nurse at the clinic will tell you about the disease, how it’s treated, the importance of adherence support that can be provided while on treatment, the diet to follow, the importance of screening your immediate family members as well as things to avoid when you’re on treatment.

TB is curable if you take your medication correctly for the full duration. If you feel better after taking medication continue until the nurse tells you to stop. TB is dangerous if you don't comply with medication and it can lead to even more serious complications like MDR and XDR and even death.

What can you do to protect others?

It’s important to protect everyone around you if you have TB. Try to allow good ventilation in your home, allow a lot of natural light in your home, and practice good hygiene. You can also do the following:

  • Take your TB treatment as prescribed by your health worker.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Open windows and let sunlight come through your house.
  • Exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Eat enough healthy food.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Avoid alcohol intake.

What should you do if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has TB?

All children under five years of age who are in close contact with a TB patient should be taken to the clinic to be screened. Adults who have symptoms of TB should also go to the clinic to be tested for TB.

Useful Tips if You Have TB or Know of Someone Who Has This Disease

Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette can prevent the spread of TB. If you must sneeze, cough or spit, it’s important to do the following:

  • Turn your head away from people when you cough, sneeze or spit.
  • Try to sneeze, cough or spit into a tissue or toilet paper. Throw the used tissue or toilet paper into a bin.
  • If you do not have a tissue or toilet paper on hand, sneeze and cough into your upper arm.
  • Use a tissue or toilet paper if you need to blow your nose and throw the used tissue or toilet paper into a bin.
  • If you have a cough, cold or flu, cover your mouth and nose by wearing a mask or scarf when you are in enclosed or crowded spaces, for example when visiting your clinic, travelling in on public transport, or in your home.
  • Continuously wash your hands so that you do not transmit germs.

Together, we can stop the spread of TB

The content on this page was last updated on 1 March 2021