Published Thursday, 21 March 2013
There has been an increase in reported cases of TB in Northern Ireland. (© Getty)
There were 87 cases of TB reported in the region in 2012, compared to 62 cases in 2011.
Since 2004, there have also been 12 cases of multi-drug resistant TB (MDRTB).
Ahead of World TB Day on Sunday, the Public Health Agency (PHA) has issued a reminder of the facts about TB and its symptoms in order to raise public awareness and stop transmission of the infection by encouraging early diagnoses and treatment.
TB is an infection caused by bacteria which usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body.
It is spread from person to person when someone who has TB of the lungs cough or sneeze, but requires prolonged and close contact in order to spread.
Any of the following symptoms may suggest TB: fever and night sweats; persistent cough; losing weight; blood in your sputum (phlegm or spit) at any time.
The infection is usually curable with a six-month course of antibiotics, but if it is not treated it can be fatal. The PHA has warned that not completing the treatment can encourage drug resistance.
Dr Michael Devine, PHA Consultant in Health Protection said: "Although people may think of TB as a disease of the past, the risk is that we become complacent, and with new drug-resistant types of TB evolving and increased international travel, it is essential that we maintain vigilance and know what to look out for.
"TB is not easily spread; close and prolonged contact is required for someone to even be at risk of being infected. Because of this, the greatest risk is to people who live in the same household."
Dr Devine added: "If people are concerned about their symptoms they should get medical advice. Greater awareness can mean the condition is diagnosed and treated much earlier."
TB remains an important public health problem throughout much of the world, causing the deaths of more than a million people each year, mostly in developing countries.
In 2011, there were an estimated 8.7 million new cases of TB across the globe and 1.4 million people died from the condition.