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Am I at risk

Should you be afraid of getting TB? We can say to most people living in Finland: probably you don’t need to worry. TB is a rare disease in Finland. Most people don’t need to worry about it.
People who have spent much time with a person who has TB of the lungs are at highest risk for being infected with TB. This group includes for example those living in the same household.

Also other factors affect the risk, for example:

  • Have you lived long in a country where TB is common?
  • Is TB common in your country of origin?
  • Have you lived in overcrowded conditions?
  • What is the state of your health and immunity?

In this section, you can find information on high-risk groups and a special section on TB for asylum seekers.

TB disease

Is tuberculosis my own fault?

No. Regardless of race, gender, age, profession or social status, anyone who gets infected with TB bacteria can develop TB disease.

Do all the people who have been in contact with patient who has infectious TB disease get TB?

No. Only one in ten healthy adults infected with TB bacteria develops TB disease. About half of them get symptoms within two years of infection. The second half will develop TB disease sometime later in life.

Do children or young people get TB disease easier than adults?

Yes. Babies and young children have a weak immune system. If they are infected with TB bacteria they can get ill very quickly and the illness can be life threatening. Also young people, who are about 15-20 years old, have a higher risk of developing TB disease than adults.

How do diseases or medications that weaken the immune system affect the risk of developing TB disease?

Certain diseases or drug treatments can weaken the immune system. When a person’s immune system gets weak, the body cannot so well control TB bacteria. If bacteria multiplies in the body, TB disease can develop. For this reason the chance of developing TB disease is higher among such persons.

Why is it important to know if I have HIV infection?

Because HIV infection weakens the immune system, people with TB infection and HIV infection have a very high risk of developing TB disease in their lifetime.

Is TB disease in people infected with HIV similar to others?

People with HIV infection have more often TB in places other than the lungs compared to those who do not have HIV. If HIV infection has not been treated and the person has AIDS, TB disease can develop very rapidly. The disease can spread throughout the body and be very severe.

Are patients with TB disease tested for HIV?

A test for HIV is routinely taken from each TB patient.

How soon do symptoms of TB disease appear, after a person gets infected with TB bacteria?

This depends on the person’s age, his/her immunity system and among small children on vaccine protection. Children less than five years old who have not received BCG vaccination, can get sick rapidly (even one month after they get infected with TB bacteria).
Adults whose immune system is normal can get symptoms within 6 -12 months after infection with TB, but the delay can be decades long. TB bacteria can lie dormant (sleeping) in their body (latent TB infection) and the infection can develop to TB disease later when their immune system gets weakened because of ageing, diseases or medication.

Which part of the body does tuberculosis affect?

TB bacteria can cause inflammation in any organ, but it most often affects the lungs. Two thirds of TB cases are TB of the lungs.
The most common form of TB in other sites than lungs is TB of the lymph nodes. A person sick with TB may have at the same time both TB of the lungs and TB in sites other than the lungs.

What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?

General symptoms of TB disease are loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, heavy sweating at night, chills or fever. With children, TB may appear as poor growth and development.

Local symptoms of TB disease depend on which part of the body is affected. The most important symptom of TB of the lungs is cough that lasts over three weeks. Cough can turn chesty with time. The person can cough up yellow, brown or bloodstained sputum.

If a person has TB of the lymph nodes, the inflamed gland swells or increases in size. Usually the infected lymph node is in the neck, but it can also be in the armpits or in the groin. Usually such a lymph node does not cause pain and it feels firm. As the disease progresses the node can become fluctuant, red and tender. A lymph node which has become an abscess can burst and produce pus to the skin.