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FAQs

Basic Facts about TB

What is tuberculosis (TB)?

TB is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. TB can attack any part of the body, but most frequently affects the lungs.

How is TB spread?

TB germs are spread from one person to another through the air. When a person with TB coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings, TB germs are released into the air. Anyone nearby who breathes in the air can be infected with TB.

What is TB infection and what is TB disease?

TB infection is when the germs enter the body and are not destroyed by the body’s defence system, but remain in the body without causing any symptoms or signs. TB disease is when the germs increase within the body and cause symptoms and signs.

Who is at risk of developing TB disease?

People living with HIV are at greater risk of developing TB. Because of their immature immune systems children under the age of five years are at increased risk, as are older people because of their weakened immune systems.  

What are the symptoms of TB?

You could have TB if you have been coughing for more than two weeks (especially if coughing up blood), have unexplained weight loss, and drenching night sweats or fever. Other symptoms include weakness, chest pain and other generalised aches.

What are some common forms of TB?

TB disease occurs most commonly in the lungs. It can also develop in almost any other part of the body, such as in the lymph nodes, heart, abdomen, kidneys, spine and so on.

How is TB diagnosed?

TB disease of the lungs is diagnosed by testing the sputum and having chest x-rays done. Diagnosis of TB in other parts of the body needs special tests. Visit your nearest health centre if you think you might have TB.

TB Prevention

Can TB be prevented?

Yes. People living with HIV who do not have symptoms or signs of TB can be given some medicines to reduce the risk of developing TB disease. New-born children are given a vaccine called BCG that prevents serious forms of TB from developing. People living with HIV can also have their chances of developing TB reduced when they take antiretroviral drugs.

There is someone in our household with TB. What can we do to prevent the spread of TB?

If there is someone in your household with TB, help them to access free TB treatment at the nearest health centre. Once they are on treatment, support them to complete the treatment. Remember, feeling better after beginning treatment does not mean that one is cured, people on TB treatment need to complete their medication.

Open windows and doors to let in fresh air at home, and where possible, have your family member with TB sleep in their own room and their own bed. Cover mouth and nose with tissue or arm/elbow when coughing or sneezing, and be sure to place any used tissues in the bin and to wash your hands.

TB Treatment

I am on TB treatment. What should I do if I miss a dose of my medication?

Continue taking your medication according to your schedule. Do not take two doses at the same time. If you miss many doses you must see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

TB in Children

What are some of the symptom of TB in children?

For children under five years of age, if you see these symptoms, have them tested for TB immediately: sudden loss of appetite or interest in breast-feeding, rapid weight loss, fevers for two weeks or more, loss of consciousness, drowsiness and/or excessive sleepiness.

The immune system of children under the age of five is less developed, placing them at high risk of TB infection and disease. Children under the age of five in close contact with a person with TB should receive preventive therapy (INH) to prevent the development of TB disease. When a child has TB, it is usually because an adult in the family has TB. Children with HIV are also at high risk.

I might be pregnant, and suspect that I might have been exposed to TB. What can I do to protect myself and maybe my unborn baby?

If you think you might be pregnant, visit your nearest clinic for a pregnancy test as soon as possible. If you are pregnant book for antenatal care (ANC) at the nearest clinic as soon as you confirm your pregnancy. When you book at the ANC clinic you will be tested for both HIV and TB. It is important that you book early so that any disease is picked up and you can get treatment so both you and your baby are protected. Visit your clinic regularly for check-ups as advised by your nurse or doctor.

I am pregnant and have TB, should I wait until after I deliver to go on treatment?

TB can be safely treated and cured when you are pregnant. Early treatment is best for you and your baby as TB treatment helps to kill the TB germ in your body. Do not stop taking your treatments, even if you feel better. You need to take all doses of your medication for a minimum period of six months, or until the nurse or doctor tells you to stop. If you have any side effects from the treatment, you must tell the nurse or doctor.

Can TB harm my unborn baby?

If you have TB during pregnancy and you do not find out and treat it early, there is a higher risk of having a miscarriage, your baby being born prematurely, your baby being born with low birth weight and your baby being born with TB.

TB and HIV

I am HIV positive, should I be worried about TB?

HIV weakens the immune system. All people living with HIV should be screened for TB disease or infection. If you are HIV positive and also test positive for TB, you should get treatment as soon as possible. If you are taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), inform your healthcare provider to avoid drug interactions.

Remember, TB is curable, even if you have HIV. So, you should not worry, but be always on the look-out for the first sign of TB

I was tested and was found to have both TB and HIV. What happens next?

If you have TB and are also HIV positive but are not on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, you will be started on TB treatment immediately. Your nurse or doctor will start you on ARVs within two to eight weeks.

If you are on ARV treatment already, you will continue with your ARVs and you will start TB treatment immediately.

If you are pregnant, have TB and HIV and you are already on ARVs, your doctor or nurse may change your treatment to find one that is best for you and your baby.

Drug-resistant TB

What is drug-resistant TB?

Multi drug-resistant TB (MDR TB) and extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR TB) is caused by the germ that causes normal tuberculosis, but that has developed a resistance to normal treatment and is more difficult to treat. 

How do I get drug-resistant TB?
  • If you have TB and you do not take your treatment as advised by the doctor or nurse, then the germs become resistant to the drugs used in normal TB treatment
  • You can also be infected by a person who has drug-resistant TB.
How is drug-resistant TB spread?
  • Just like ordinary TB; when a person with drug-resistant TB coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings, the germs are released into the air
  • Anyone nearby who breathes in the air can be infected with drug-resistant TB.
How do I know if I have drug-resistant TB?

IF YOU HAVE BEEN:

  • Coughing for two weeks or more (if you are HIV positive, a cough for any length of time)
  • Sweating at night
  • Having a fever for two weeks or more
  • Having chest pains
  • Coughing up blood.

YOU SHOULD GET TESTED FOR TB.

How can you prevent drug-resistant TB?
  • Always wash your hands after coughing
  • Always cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it away into a dustbin.
  • Open the windows in your home because sunlight kills TB germs and fresh air can blow the germs away
  • If you have drug-resistant TB, make sure that people you spend a lot of time with (at home or work or school) are tested for TB at the nearest clinic.
How is drug-resistant TB treated?

It takes two years or more to treat drug-resistant TB. Some people stay in hospital for the start of the treatment, and others start at a clinic or with support from someone from the community.

THERE ARE TWO PHASES FOR THE TREATMENT:

Phase 1: First six months (Intensive phase)

You will get an injection and take at least four kinds of tablets every day. Once a month you will be tested to see if there are still TB germs found in your cough.

Phase 2: Next 18 months (Continuation phase)

You will take at least four kinds of tablets every day. You will be visited by someone who will observe you taking your medication every day. Once every two months you will be tested to see if there are still TB germs found in your cough.

You should not smoke or use alcohol or drugs when you are taking the treatment.

EVEN IF YOU START TO FEEL BETTER DURING TREATMENT, REMEMBER THAT TAKING ALL OF YOUR TABLETS EVERY DAY FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS IS THE ONLY WAY THAT DRUGRESISTANT TB CAN BE TREATED.

What are the side effects of drug-resistant TB treatment?

Side effects can be serious. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, you need to tell your doctor or nurse immediately and they will change your tablets or give you other treatment for the side-effects.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Yellowish skin or eyes
  • Fever for three days or more
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Tingling or numbness around the mouth
  • Heart-burn or pain in the lower chest
  • Feeling itchy or getting a skin rash
  • Bruising easily
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose
  • Urine becoming dark or brown in colour
  • Aching joints
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred or changed eyesight
  • Ringing in the ears or hearing loss

THESE SIDE EFFECTS CAN BE TREATED. DO NOT STOP YOUR TREATMENT UNLESS TOLD TO BY YOUR DOCTOR OR NURSE.

How do I take care of somebody who has drug-resistant TB?
  • It is important that a person with drug-resistant TB also spends time with family and friends
  • If you are caring for someone who is sick with drug-resistant TB, you should wear a face-mask
  • Visiting a person with drug-resistant TB, and taking care of them or sharing a meal is safe; as long as the person who is sick covers their cough and windows are left open to let in fresh air
  • It takes several hours of exposure to TB germs in a closed space to be at risk of catching TB.
What food should I eat when I have drug-resistant TB?

It is important to get good nutrition if you are sick with TB. This means eating a balanced diet with a mix of different, healthy foods. Your nurse or doctor can advise you on what you should eat.

What if I have drug-resistant TB and HIV?

If you have both drug-resistant TB and HIV, you will need to take the TB treatment as well as antiretroviral (ARVs) therapy. You will also be given another medicine to prevent chest infections.

Remember that taking all of your drugs every day for at least two years is the only way that drug resistant TB can be cured!

TB and Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood is too high and your body cannot use it properly.

Who can get Diabetes?

Being overweight or having somebody in yourfamily with diabetes can make you more likely to get diabetes.

How do I know if I have Diabetes?

Look out for these symptoms of diabetes:

  • Often thirsty
  • Often tired
  • Needing to urinate often
  • Losing weight
  • Itching in the vagina
  • Having trouble with your eyesight
  • Slow to heal cuts, bruises and sores
  • Losing feeling orfeeling numb ortingly in your hands and feet.

IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS, VISIT YOUR NEAREST CLINIC TO BE TESTED FOR DIABETES.

IF SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY HAS DIABETES, YOU SHOULD ALSO GET TESTED FOR DIABETES.

How can Diabetes be prevented?
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • If overweight, reducing your weight
How is Diabetes treated?

Diabetes can be managed with a healthy diet, exercise and treatment.

Treatment will involve tablets or injections, or both, and is available forfree at your clinic.

IF YOU HAVE DIABETES, GET YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE CHECKED REGULARLY.

What is the connection between TB and Diabetes?

People with diabetes can easily get TB because their immune systems are weaker.

TB CAN MAKE DIABETES WORSE, AND DIABETES CAN MAKE TB WORSE.

Take all your treatment as advised by your nurse or doctor.

Talk to your nurse or doctor if you have any concerns or problems with your treatment.

TB and Pregnancy

How do I stay healthy when I am pregnant?

Attend all antenatal check ups

  • Take your treatment as advised by your nurse or doctor
  • Eat a well balanced diet
  • Clean, handle and cook food carefully to prevent passing on germs
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Take regular exercise
  • Get enough sleep and rest.

ASK AT YOUR CLINIC ABOUT THE FREE MOMCONNECT SERVICE. REGISTER AND RECEIVE MESSAGES ON YOUR PHONE ABOUT HAVING A SAFE AND HEALTHY PREGNANCY AND REMINDERS ABOUT YOUR CLINIC APPOINTMENTS. REGISTER FOR MOMCONNECT FOR FREE BY DIALING *134*550#.

What if I am pregnant and have TB?
  • TB can be safely treated and cured when you are pregnant
  • Early treatment is best for you and your baby
  • TB treatment helps to kill the TB germ in your body
  • Do not stop taking your treatments even if you feel better
  • You will take your medication for a minimum of six months or until the nurse or doctor tells you to stop 
  • If you have any side effects from the treatment, you must tell the nurse or doctor.
What if I am pregnant, have TB and are also HIV positive?

If you have TB and are HIV positive and, are NOT on Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment:

  • You will start the TB treatment immediately, and
  • You will start the ARVs within two-eight weeks.

If you are on ARV treatment already:

  • You will continue with ARVs
  • You will start TB treatment immediately.

YOUR DOCTOR OR NURSE MAY CHANGE YOUR TREATMENT TO FIND WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY

Can TB harm my developing baby?

If you have TB during pregnancy and you don’t out and treat it early, there is a higher risk of:

  • Having a miscarriage
  • Your baby being born prematurely
  • Your baby being born with low birth weight
  • Your baby being born with TB.

GET TESTED FOR TB EARLY AND BE TREATED TO PREVENT TB AFFECTING YOUR BABY.

Will the TB treatment affect me and my baby?

Most TB treatments can be taken safely when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your doctor or nurse will tell you more on safety of your treatment.

Can I breastfeed if I have TB?

YOU CAN SAFELY BREASTFEED YOUR BABY WHEN YOU ARE ON TB TREATMENT.

It is important that your baby gets all the nutrients it needs, and breast milk is best for this.

REMEMBER TO COVER YOUR COUGH TO PREVENT TB GERMS FROM SPREADING TO YOUR BABY

  • Use a tissue or cloth when you cough
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow
  • Put on a face mask.
What if I have TB, what happens to my baby after I have delivered?

All babies get immunized with an injection called BCG soon after birth to protect them from getting TB, but if you have TB, your baby will not be given BCG soon after birth until she or he has been tested for TB.