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Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, also known as 'the tubercle bacillus'. TB commonly affects the lungs, but can reach any part of the body. It is usually spread by the coughs or sneezes of an infected person, but is not highly contagious. Prolonged close contact with a person with TB--for example, living in the same household--is usually necessary for infection to be passed on. It may take many years before someone infected with TB develops the full disease. TB worldwide is a massive problem. In England cases fell progressively until the mid-1980s but started to rise again in the early 1990s. In 2006, there were 8497 cases of TB reported in the UK (14.0 per 100,000) and the London region accounted for 40 per cent of cases (44.8 per 100,000). TB is curable with a course of special antibiotics taken for at least 6 months. The most important part of controlling TB is identifying and treating those who already have the disease, to shorten their infection and to stop it being passed on to others.

Additional links

Immunisation (opens new window)

Symptom and prevention information for TB. The Immunisation website is published by the Department of Health and for the NHS.

Health Protection Agency: Tuberculosis (opens new window)

General information, advice and updates on TB from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

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