What is tuberculosis?

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Tuberculosis is an infectious disease

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is spread from one person to another through the air. The most common site of tuberculosis is the lungs, where the bacteria multiplies and causes inflammation. The bacteria can spread to other parts of the body through blood or the lymphatic system. Therefore, TB  can occur in lymph nodes, bones, urinary and genitals organs, the central nervous system, the skin, or as a generalized infection. Tuberculosis is curable. TB tests and treatment are free-of-charge for the patient. Read more about TB treatment here.

TB is common in almost all of Asia, Africa, Southeand Central America and much of large parts of the world. Yearly about 9 million people fall ill with TB and 1.5 Eastern Europe. Yearly about 10 million people fall ill with TB and 1.5 million die of the disease. Crowded living conditions, malnutrition, HIV-epidemic and poor health care enhance the spread of the disease. TB also spreads in countries in which infrastructure has been affected by natural disasters, wars or societal upheaval.

In Finland, TB was still in the 1930’s a public health problem. Back then, one Finn died of tuberculosis every hour. Today, less than 250 new cases of TB are diagnosed in Finland every year. About half of those affected are foreign-born. The main groups at heightened risk of TB in Finland are elderly people born before 1950, immigrants from countries where TB is common and people with substance abuse problems. TB remains a disease that should be taken seriously.