Communicable Diseases – Tuberculosis

At Global Medical Services, many of our paramedics work in oil and gas camps in Northern British Columbia, as such, we encourage them to be prepared for whatever they may come across in these remote regions.

Throughout the year, we profile various diseases and afflictions to help further their understanding in the hopes they will be prepared should they come into contact with one of these diseases.

This week we are profiling a known transmissible disease that an individual may encounter in their career as a paramedic, nurse or other health care provider. It is our hope that this profile will allow you to quickly
diagnose common or rare diseases should you come across them.

Tuberculosis is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium, bacteria which are spread through the air like the common cold. 

Tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections are asymptomatic and dormant, but about one in ten dormant infections eventually progresses to become an active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

In the active stage, a person often shows symptoms of the disease. Active bacteria will usually infect the lungs or airways but may also affect several organs (lymph nodes, kidneys, etc).

Global tb cases


Weakened immune system – A healthy immune system can often successfully fight TB bacteria, but your body can’t mount an effective defense if your resistance is low. A number of diseases and medications can weaken your immune system, including: HIV/AIDS, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer treatment.

International connections – TB risk is higher for people who live in or travel to countries that have high rates of tuberculosis, such as: Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China and Mexico. 

Poverty and substance abuse – If you are on a low or fixed income, live in a remote area, have recently immigrated, or are homeless, you may lack access to the medical care needed to diagnose and treat TB. Long-term drug or alcohol use weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to tuberculosis.


If you have active TB, keep your germs from spreading. It generally takes a few weeks of treatment with TB medications before you’re not contagious anymore. Follow these tips to help keep your friends and family from getting sick: Stay home, ventilate the room, cover your mouth and wear a mask.


For active TB, symptoms usually include swollen and sore lymph glands, weakness or feeling very tired, weight loss, lack of appetite, chills, fever, night sweats. For active TB in the lungs and airways (pulmonary TB), symptoms usually include a bad cough that lasts longer than three weeks, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm).

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