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How to protect yourself and your loved ones from Tuberculosis

World Tuberculosis Day is commemorated every year on the 24th of March to bring awareness to a disease that kills thousands of people around the world. Since health, social and economic consequences of Tuberculosis (TB) are devastating, campaigns against TB are extremely important to expand access to preventive treatment, promote sustainable research for 2nd and 3rd world countries and ensure responsive treatment.

When moving abroad, whether for long or short term, for your safety and that of others, it is important to know the level of risk for the spread of the disease, what are the symptoms and what are the methods for prevention. This is especially important if a family member has an existing medical condition that requires regular treatment. In addition to this, it’s important to consider how you can protect your family including your children who are at higher risk of catching Tuberculosis, a potentially life-threatening disease.

What is Tuberculosis?

Better known as TB, Tuberculosis is described as an infectious bacterial disease characterised by the growth of nodules (tubercles) in the tissues, especially the lungs.”

What are the symptoms?

There are a number of different ways to identify infection from Tuberculosis. Some common signs include coughing up blood, severe chest pain, unexplained weight loss and fatigue.

Other symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • A cough that lasts more than three weeks

You are strongly advised to seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of these. 

Can I travel with TB?

It is important to note that if you have Tuberculosis, it is advised to avoid travelling by plane. This is because it is highly contagious and could put passengers with existing health problems at high risk of catching the bacterial infection. If not caught in the early stages of the infection developing, it can easily spread from person to person by breathing in contaminated air.

It is recommended that individuals that have Tuberculosis should postpone their trip for at least two weeks in order to ensure that treatment can be completed. Should this not be possible, an agreement should be made between the individual in question, the local public health authority and relevant airline.

If you are granted the ability to travel with TB, then it is likely that you will be relocated to a seat that is separate from the other passengers. You will also be given a surgical face mask that you will be expected to wear throughout the duration of the flight. You will also be provided with an adequate amount of disposable tissues depending on the time it will take to reach your destination.

How can I protect myself?

While TB is not entirely avoidable, there are a number of ways that you can protect yourself from this bacterial disease. While the general rule of washing your hands after sneezing, coughing or holding your hands close to your nose and mouth applies, you can also apply for a vaccination.

Bacille Calmette-Gurin better known as BCG is available to those who are looking to protect themselves from the disease. In some countries, the vaccine is openly available to children to help prevent severe cases, but is only recommended on the NHS for people who are at risk for infection and are under 35 years old.

Other ways you can protect yourself from Tuberculosis is by avoiding contact with people who have been infected, which is especially important if you are visiting a busy environment such as a hospital or clinic. At the same time, you should also try to avoid contact with those who are suffering from a cough or fever. 

However, if you are going to be around people who have or are experiencing the symptoms of TB, then you should speak to your doctor about arranging a test before you are due to travel. If your test comes back negative, it is recommended that you arrange another TB test between 8 to 10 weeks after to ensure that you haven’t developed the disease.

If you work in a health care environment, you should seek further advice from an expert to find out what precautions you can take to protect yourself.

How can I protect others?

Should you experience signs of Tuberculosis, it’s important to remember to take all your prescribed medication until your doctor gives you the green light and attend all your scheduled appointments to monitor your progress.

To prevent others from getting TB, you should also:

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap after sneezing and coughing
  • Avoid using public transport including buses and trains where possible
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Open windows to boost ventilation

Whether you are travelling alone or are moving abroad with your family, it’s important to understand how you can protect yourself from Tuberculosis.

If you would like to find out how we can help assist your relocation, get in touch with a member of our team on 020 8961 4141, today.

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