Tuberculosis – making sure you don’t have latent TB

UNISON is working with TB Alert to let members know that latent TB can be diagnosed and treated before it wakes up

World Tuberculosis Day, on Sunday 24 March, is a time when we remember that tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s leading cause of death from an infectious disease. It kills more people than HIV and malaria combined.

But TB is not just a problem in the developing world and the UK has some of the highest rates in Western Europe.

Most people who breathe in TB bacteria do not immediately become unwell, but have strong enough immune systems to clear the bacteria or otherwise hold it in a ‘sleeping’ state known as latent TB.

In fact, a quarter of the world’s population has latent TB, with a 10% chance of it ‘waking up’ and making people ill sometime during their lives, usually when their immune system comes under pressure from lifestyle stresses or other illnesses. Moving to a new country can be a common trigger.

UNISON is working with TB Alert, the UK’s national tuberculosis charity, to let members know that latent TB can be diagnosed and treated before it wakes up, which protects your future health.

If you or members of your family are aged 16 to 35 and have come to the UK during the last five years from a country with high rates of TB, visit TB Alert’s campaign website, The Truth About TB, and think about asking your GP for a latent TB test.

TB Alert can also support branches with awareness resources, training for health champions or arranging talks by local experts at workplaces or branch meetings.

Contact helen.clegg@tbalert.org or on 01273 234030 to discuss how TB Alert can work with you to protect the health of your members and their families.