TB Awareness and Support

Tuberculosis (TB) is a curable disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can affect any part of the body but people with disease in the lungs may transmit the organism to others when they cough.

As part of our partnership work with GP’s, BHA supports people with latent TB to improve treatment compliance, promoting self-care and addressing any wider concerns that may be detrimental to patients’ health.

Although the incidence of TB is low nationally, it is higher in England than many other comparable countries and as it is concentrated in urban areas, there are pockets of very high incidence in some parts of our cities, including areas in Manchester. According with the Tuberculosis in North West England: Annual review (2016 data)

A total of 5,664 cases of tuberculosis (TB) were reported in England in 2016. This corresponds to an incidence rate of 10.2 per 100,000 population similar to the previous year (10.5 per 100,000 in 2015).

The North West local authorities with the highest incidence in 2016 were Blackburn with Darwen (25.9 per 100,000 population), Manchester (25.6 per 100,000 population) and Oldham (18.2 per 100,000 population).

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.

The greatest proportion of new TB cases in 2016 occurred in the White ethnic group (31%), followed by the Pakistani ethnic group (28%).

Tuberculosis (TB) overwhelmingly affects socially disadvantaged communities who experience health inequalities and live in large urban areas. 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.

BHA is working with local GPs to raise awareness of the prevention, detection and early diagnosis of latent TB among the South Asian community in Manchester and Oldham.

Working in partnership with local health providers, we aim to ensure as many eligible patients as possible access the national Latent TB Screening program and support individuals with GP registration.  

Support for people with latent TB

Tuberculosis (TB) is an illness caused by bacteria. When someone with TB in their lung’s 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 or in the future

  • the TB bacteria make you ill – this is called ‘active TB’
  • the TB bacteria remain asleep in your body – this is called ‘latent TB’.
  • About active TB

When people talk about TB, they tend to mean ‘active TB’. If you have active TB, the bacteria are making you ill and you might be passing TB on to other people. Active TB can be very harmful to your health, but it can be cured with a course of medicine.

About latent TB

If you have latent TB, the TB bacteria in your body are ‘asleep’. 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 news is that latent TB can be treated to prevent this happening.

Latent TB

  • TB bacteria are asleep in your body
  • you do not have symptoms and you feel well
  • you cannot pass TB on to others
  • it can only be detected through a blood test or TB skin test
  • treated with one or two medicines over three to six months

Active TB

  • TB bacteria are awake and making you ill
  • you will have symptoms that make you feel unwell
  • you can pass TB to others if it is in your lungs
  • it shows up on a chest x-ray if you have TB in the lungs
  • treated with four or more medicines over at least six months

How does the Latent TB work?

Very few people fall ill immediately after they breathe in TB bacteria. If you are in good health, your immune system – your body’s defense against illness – is likely to remove all the TB bacteria that you breathe in. If it is unable to do this, it may be able to stop you from becoming ill by forcing the bacteria into a latent (sleeping) state. The bacteria are still in your body, but they are not causing damage.

However, latent TB bacteria can ‘wake up’ and become active in the future, making you ill. This can happen many years after you first breathe in TB bacteria. Latent TB bacteria are more likely to wake up if you experience lifestyle stresses or other illnesses that weaken your immune system.