Tuberculosis in Indigenous communities
Learn about tuberculosis (TB) and the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease. TB is preventable and curable.
What is TB?
TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria spread through the air when someone with contagious TB coughs, sneezes, sings or talks. It mainly affects the lungs and airways but can also affect other parts of the body.
TB can be:
- latent or sleeping TB infection: where TB bacteria are inactive in the body, not causing symptoms and cannot spread to others
- active TB disease: where TB bacteria are active, causing symptoms and can be spread to others
If you have active TB disease, you will usually feel sick with some of the following symptoms:
- cough lasting more than two weeks
- coughing up sputum (phlegm)
- sometimes coughing up blood
- chest pain
- no appetite
- unexpected or unexplained weight loss
- weakness or lack of energy
- chills or fever
- sweating at night
If you are sick with any of the above symptoms, you should see your health care provider.
Diagnosis and treatment
TB is diagnosed using a combination of tests that can include:
- tuberculin skin test
- blood tests such as an interferon gamma release assay
- sputum testing
- chest X-ray
Both latent TB and active TB can be treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, latent TB can develop into active TB. Active TB can be fatal without medical treatment.
TB and Indigenous communities
For most people in Canada, the risk of developing active TB is very low. However, the rates of active TB are higher among Indigenous peoples in Canada:
- The rate of TB in Inuit Nunangat is more than 300 times higher than in the Canadian-born, non-Indigenous population
- The rate of TB among First Nations living on reserve is over 40 times higher than the Canadian-born non-Indigenous population
Factors that increase the chance of developing active TB
- close contact with people living with untreated active TB
- overcrowded, poorly ventilated homes
- food insecurity
- having other illnesses, such as diabetes or HIV
These resources can help you raise awareness and understanding about TB and how to prevent the spread of TB.
TB is curable.
Share what you learn about TB with family and friends. Together let's stop TB!