PHE | Substance misuse and tuberculosis (TB)

What is TB?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial airborne infectious disease that spreads between people following prolonged contact. Although the overall number of people diagnosed with TB in England continues to decrease, people with TB disease who use drugs and alcohol have increased. TB can affect any part of the body, but can only be passed on from one individual to another when it is affecting the lungs.

Spotting symptoms and referrals
Early detection of TB makes it easier to treat and reduces onward transmission. It is important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of TB so that you can increase awareness among your clients. If you think a client may have TB you should refer them to appropriate health providers.

Think TB! – Spotting symptoms

Look out for a cough which persists for more than 3 weeks. If your client has a chronic cough and 2 or more of the following symptoms, he/she may have TB. They should ask to see a nurse or doctor urgently:
• persistent fever
• heavy sweating at night
• loss of appetite
• unexplained weight loss
• general and unusual sense of tiredness and being unwell
• coughing up blood
• recent contact with someone who has TB

Remember – just because someone has had the vaccination for TB (BCG) this does not
mean that they cannot get TB!

Providing assistance
Vulnerable clients/people with TB may need support in accessing health services and should,
where possible, be accompanied by a member of staff who can advocate for them.


PHE | Substance misuse and TB – Download here