Tuberculosis (TB) is an illness caused by bacteria. When someone with TB in their lung coughs or sneezes, they send TB bacteria into the air. If you breathe in these bacteria, one of three things will happen:
- Your body kills off the TB bacteria so they cannot harm you now and in the future
- The TB bacteria makes you ill – this is called active TB
- The TB bacteria remains asleep in your body – this is called latent TB
Latent TB is bacteria in your body that is ‘asleep’ or dormant. You are not ill and you cannot pass TB on to others. However, the bacteria might ‘wake up’ in the future, making you ill with active TB. The good new is that latent TB can be treated to prevent this happening.
If you have latent TB you will not have any symptoms. The only way to know if you have latent TB is to have a blood test or skin test. If you have latent TB the course of medicine you are now being offered will kill the bacteria before they have a chance to wake up and harm you.
Tuberculosis (TB) overwhelmingly affects socially disadvantaged communities who experience health inequalities and live in large urban areas. Manchester has the third largest number of cases in the UK and 80% of all local Tuberculosis cases are in non UK born Black, Minority and Ethnic (BME) Communities. In Manchester, between 2001 and 2010,the highest proportion of new cases has consistently been among Black African and Asian populations.
Among the most affected communities there is often a lack of awareness of the symptoms of TB which, combined with deeply held stigma about the disease prevents people from seeking appropriate treatment and support. Many patients do not engage with the health care service even though TB treatment is free, regardless of a person’s immigration status.
People who do not seek help for TB early have an increased risk of passing on the disease to their family, friends and other close contacts in their community before they are diagnosed. There is an urgent need to raise awareness of these issues among groups who are more likely to develop TB to ensure that people receive an earlier diagnosis and treatment, improving their own treatment outcomes and reducing the spread of TB within the community.
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