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Parramatta Chest Clinic

Information for contacts of Tuberculosis

Information for contacts of tb

What does it mean to be a contact of tuberculosis?

You have been identified as a person who has been in contact with a case of active tuberculosis disease (TB). As TB can be an infectious disease, we ask all people diagnosed with the disease to identify people with whom they have had contact so that those people can be tested for the disease. As with any screening tests, the benefit is that any problems can be diagnosed quickly. Preventive or early full treatment can then be given if necessary.

But I do not know anyone with TB!

You may not know who you have been in contact with, but that person has acted responsibly and nominated you as having been exposed to the disease. All cases of TB are treated strictly confidentially, so we are unable to tell you who the person is.

What is Tuberculosis (TB)?

TB is a curable disease caused by the bacteria (germ) Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease usually affects the lungs, but can sometimes be found in other parts of the body, such as the lymph glands, kidneys, bones etc.

How do people become infected with TB?

The TB germs are spread through the air when someone with active TB in their lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, sings or speaks, sending small droplets into the air, which can be breathed in by others. Most people only get TB from someone they spend a lot of time with. TB is not spread by household items such as cutlery and crockery, toilet seats and telephones.

I have had a BCG vaccination. Doesn’t this protect me?

The BCG vaccine is effective in children between 0-5 years of age in providing protection against the most severe forms of TB disease. The protective effects of BCG wears off as time goes by. By adulthood, BCG gives minimal protection from TB.

How can I tell if I have become infected?

Screening tests can be arranged through your local Chest Clinic. These tests include:

  1. A QuantiFERON TB Gold Plus® blood test – recommended for people who:
    • have been BCG vaccinated, or
    • who were born in or have lived for extended periods of time in TB endemic countries, or
    • who are immune compromised due to illness or medications
  2. A Tuberculin Skin Test (also known as a Mantoux test) for people that are not in the above categories. You will need to attend the clinic for the skin test injection, then return 2-3 days after the test has been given so that your arm can be assessed for any reaction. The nurse at the clinic will explain the result to you, and any follow-up required.
  3. A chest x-ray can show whether there is any evidence of TB on your lungs.

What happens after I have the tests?

The screening test will be repeated in about 3 months. This is because it can take up to 3 months after exposure to TB for your immune response to develop. It is therefore very important that you attend for this second screening, to ensure that you have not been infected.

If your test remains negative, you will not usually require any further tests. If positive, you will be referred for a chest X-ray and for specialist medical review.

You are also advised to be aware of any symptoms suggestive of TB.

What are the signs and symptoms of TB?

  • Coughing for more than 2 – 3 weeks, which has not responded to other treatment your doctor may have prescribed for you.
  • Fevers, night sweats
  • Weight loss when not trying to lose weight
  • General feeling of being tired and unwell
  • TB that is not in the lung will have its own specific symptoms, relating to the part of the body affected.

Is it safe for me to continue to work and be with children?

As a contact of a person with active TB disease, you are not infectious yourself and cannot pass TB on to anyone else.

Even if your screening test is positive, you will not be infectious.

If, however, you develop TB symptoms, and are diagnosed with active TB disease, you may then become infectious – do not delay seeking medical attention if you develop TB symptoms.

How much will this cost?

All services provided by the Chest Clinic are free, including any visits to a specialist TB physician, if required. You do not need a referral. All visits are totally confidential. A QuantiFERON TB Gold Plus blood test attended to privately will incur a cost of between $50 - $100.

What if I still have more questions?

You can phone the Chest Clinic on 9843-3110 and speak to a specialist nurse who will happily answer all your questions, or speak to the nurse at the clinic when you visit.

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