Santé et Services sociaux Québec

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Symptoms and disease transmission

What are the symptoms ?

These symptoms may appear:  sinificant cough (often productive) that lasts more than three weeks, fever, significant fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats, and weight loss.

Who can catch tuberculosis ?

Anyone can catch it, young or old, men, women, or children, regardless of age, sex, social status or country of birth.

How do you catch tuberculosis ?

When a person who has contagious pulmonary tuberculosis in the lungs coughs or sneezes, germs are released into the air. Another person can become infected by breathing in these germs. Most people infected with the germ will not develop the disease. The risk of developing the disease is greater in close contacts if their physical resistance has been weakened by any of the following:

  • a serious disease such as diabetes, HIV infection, cancer or a treatment that weakens the immune system;
  • their lifestyle (alcoholism, drug addiction, poor nutrition);
  • age: the elderly and young children are more vulnerable.

Who is most at risk of catching tuberculosis ?

People in prolonged, close contact with an infected individual are the most at risk. People who are most vulnerable are children, the elderly, and people whose physical resistance has been weakened by other diseases or by their lifestyle.

Who is considered a close contact ?

Any person who lives in the same house as a person who has pulmonary tuberculosis. The term may also apply to people outside the home who are in frequent or prolonged contact with the sick person, such as co-workers, friends and other family members.

When is tuberculosis contagious ?

Tuberculosis can be contagious even before it is diagnosed. It can be more or less contagious depending on the amount of coughing and how serious the illness is. It usually stops being contagious a
few weeks after the beginning of the treatment. A doctor must decide when each case of tuberculosis is no longer contagious.

The danger of catching tuberculosis is greatest for people who live in the same house as the patient, and for certain close friends, co-workers, or schoolmates.