The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

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Tuberculosis (TB)

What is tuberculosis (TB)?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by a type of bacteria that usually affects the lungs, but can occur in any part of the body. It is spread through the air from one person to another when a person with TB coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. Not everyone infected with TB becomes sick. Symptoms of TB include a cough that last 3 weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness or tiredness, weight loss, lack of appetite, chills, fever, and sweating at night. Bovine TB (a form of TB usually found in cattle) is a risk in travelers who consume unpasteurized dairy products in countries where TB in cattle is common.

Who is at risk?
TB occurs throughout the world. Travelers who go to areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and parts of Central and South America are at greatest risk. Globally, nearly 9 million new TB cases and nearly 1.5 million TB-related deaths occur each year.

What can travelers do to prevent tuberculosis?
Although a TB vaccine exists, CDC does not recommend it for travelers. The vaccine has limited effectiveness at preventing TB. Instead CDC recommends the travelers take the following steps to prevent TB:

  • Avoid close contact or extended time with people who have TB.
    • This is especially important if you will be in a crowded environment, such as a clinic, hospital, prison, or homeless shelter.
    • Try to avoid close contact with people who are coughing and look sick.
  • Take special precautions if you will be around people with TB (such as those who will be working in hospitals, prisons, or homeless shelters).
    • Talk to your doctor about being tested for TB infection before you leave the United States.
    • If your test is negative, have another test 8 to 10 weeks after you return to the United States.
    • People working in health care settings should talk to an infection control or occupational health expert about procedures for preventing exposure to TB, such as being fit for an N95 respirator.
  • Avoid eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy products.