A group of young travelling friends at a train station.

This bacterial disease is uncommon in people born in Australia, but may pose a risk when travelling to certain areas in Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

Did you know?


  • Most people who have tuberculosis do not show any symptoms.

  • About 10% of infected people will develop an active form of the disease at some point in their lifetime and show symptoms.1

  • Globally, nearly 10.4 million new tuberculosis cases and nearly 1.7 million tuberculosis-related deaths occur each year.2
A middle aged woman sitting on a deck at sunset.

What is it?

Tuberculosis, commonly called TB, is an infection that usually affects the lungs and is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Most infected people don't get any symptoms, however they still require treatment as tuberculosis can reactivate years later.

What are the symptoms?

Tuberculosis can affect any part of the body but usually affects the lungs.

Symptoms can include a cough, fever, sweats, tiredness, weight loss and coughing up blood.

In most cases, tuberculosis has no symptoms, however there is a 10% lifetime risk of the infection developing into an active form of the disease.1 This risk increases in those with a weakened immune system. The disease also progresses quickly in infants and the elderly.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following tuberculosis infection. If you feel unwell while travelling or when you return home, make sure you see a healthcare as soon as possible.

How is it spread?

Tuberculosis is spread from person to person through air droplets. When a person infected with an active form of the disease coughs, sneezes or speaks, the bacteria is spread through the air and those nearby can breathe in the bacteria. The bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there the infection can move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine and brain.

The chances of the disease spreading increase when a person spends a relatively long time in a closed environment with someone who has tuberculosis.

Who is at risk?

The risk of tuberculosis infection is low for most travellers. Risk is greatest when travelling to areas with a high number of tuberculosis cases including parts of Africa, Asia, as well as parts of Central and South America.

The risk of infection in children travelling to areas with high numbers of tuberculosis cases depends on age, length of stay and how common tuberculosis is at the destination.

Other people may be at risk of tuberculosis infection. Please speak to a healthcare professional regarding your individual circumstances.

Prevention and Treatement options

  • Travellers

    The risk of tuberculosis can be reduced through:

    • Avoiding crowded environments 
    • Avoiding close contact or extended periods of time with people who have tuberculosis
    • Avoiding eating or drinking unpasteurised dairy products while travelling as bovine (cow) tuberculosis can be transmitted through these products
    • Immunisation

    Tuberculosis is treated with a combination of antibiotics. Travellers who think they may have been exposed to tuberculosis should see their doctor as soon as possible for a medical assessment.

    It is important to plan ahead and see a healthcare professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss prevention options and travel health.

References

  1. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Australian Immunisation Handbook, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, 2018, immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au. (accessed October 2020).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/tuberculosis (accessed October 2020)

PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190050 Date of GSK Approval: January 2021