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