What is TB?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is spread from a person to person through the air. Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs where the bacteria multiplies and causes inflammation. From there the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body through blood or lymphatic system. For this reason TB disease can develop for example in lymph nodes, bones, urinary track or genitals, brain, skin or as generalized infection. Tuberculosis is curable and examinations and treatment due to tuberculosis are free-of-charge for the patient.

Tuberculosis is still a common disease in large parts of the world. Yearly about 9 million people fall ill with tuberculosis and 1.5 million die of the disease. Tuberculosis is common especially in low and middle income countries. Crowded living conditions, malnutrition, HIV-epidemic and poor health care enhance the spread of the disease. Tuberculosis spreads also in countries in which infrastructure has been affected by natural disasters, wars or societal breakdown.

In Finland, tuberculosis was still in the 1930’s a public health problem. During those times, every hour one Finn died of tuberculosis. Today, about 300 new cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed annually. One third of them are among foreign-born people. The biggest risk groups in Finland are the elderly, immigrants from countries with high TB incidence and people with alcohol or drug problem. Tuberculosis is still a disease that should be taken seriously.