What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease caused by a particular bacterium. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, TB was the leading cause of infectious diseases-related deaths in the world. Most people infected with TB do not have symptoms and are not contagious in that stage. However, if the infection breaks out, it can cause health problems leading up to death. TB is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It usually takes being several hours in the same room in order to be infected. Typical symptoms include cough, fever, fatigue, weight loss and night sweats. If left untreated, the infection can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia, shortness of breath, lung bleeding, or even death. Treatment takes several months and is mostly only possible with a combination of different antibiotics.


In which countries does tuberculosis occur?

Tuberculosis does appear worldwide, with most cases occurring in Africa and Southeast Asia. Two-thirds of all cases occurred in India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and South Africa in 2020. The number of cases is decreasing in highly developed countries. In Switzerland, approximately 550 new cases still occur each year. In Switzerland, this mainly affects people who have lived in a highly endemic country for a longer period of time or who are in retirement age (infected as a child).

When and how often should you be vaccinated?

Vaccination is only recommended if a long-term stay in a country with a high tuberculosis rate is planned during the first year of life. After the first year of life, vaccination is no longer recommended. Unfortunately, no vaccine against tuberculosis is available throughout Switzerland. If vaccination is recommended, it can be done in the destination country.

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What should you know about tuberculosis?

  • Tuberculosis used to be referred to as "consumption" because it caused rapid weight loss and wasting.

  • Prevention of tuberculosis outbreaks in Switzerland consists of early diagnosis and treatment.

  • The disease can remain undetected for many years as many times there are no symptoms. It only becomes active in old age or in cases of immunosuppression.

  • Tuberculosis can be detected earliest two months after infection.

  • There are various tests to diagnose tuberculosis. The tuberculin skin test (Mantoux test) was previously used for non-symptomatic individuals. In recent years, it has been replaced by two newer and more reliable blood tests, both of which are interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA). The T-Spot test is only preferred under certain conditions. The Quantiferon® test is the most commonly used, which we offer at our clinic, bookable with an Impfbuch Check appointment.  

Book your appointment for a "Routine Vaccination Check" here!

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