How infectious diseases are spread and simple and practical advice for preventing the spread of infection in the home and community
Tuberculosis (TB) cases in Aboriginal communities
The information on this page is for community members in areas linked to current TB cases.
Since May 2022, cases of TB have been identified in some Aboriginal communities in South Australia.
SA Health is working with Aboriginal leaders, Local Health Networks, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and other partners to respond to this outbreak.
What is TB?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that’s common around the world, even though we don’t see it much in Australia anymore. It can now be treated with medications and people can fully recover.
TB is a bacteria (germ) that can infect your body, especially your lungs.
It can be passed between people, although it does not spread as quickly and easily as a virus like COVID-19 or the flu.
Who can get TB?
Anyone can get TB but it is more dangerous for children, older people, and people with other health problems like diabetes.
You can catch TB if someone who is sick has been around you for a while – coughing, speaking or singing – or if you have shared bongs.
Who should get tested?
You should visit a health clinic if you:
- Have had a cough for more than a few weeks
- Have blood in your cough
- Have a fever, chills or night sweats
- Have lumps in your throat
- Are losing lots of weight
The doctor may want to test your sputum (phlegm) or do a chest x-ray.
What if I or someone in my family has TB?
Don’t worry – TB can be treated so that people fully recover.
You don’t need to be scared of people with TB – if they are taking their medications, they cannot spread the germ.
It is important to support people with TB – make sure they take all their medications and regularly see their health care worker.
How do you treat TB disease?
There are a lot of tablets to take every day for a long time – six months or more.
It is extremely important to take all the medications for as long as your doctor says to so that the TB germ is definitely gone.
Your health care worker will help make sure you are taking your medications properly.
What is ‘latent’ TB?
‘Latent’ or ‘sleeping’ TB is when the TB germ has infected your body, but it is not making you sick.
Lots of people have latent TB and don’t even know it.
It’s very important to treat latent TB so that it doesn’t ‘wake up’ and make you and your community sick.
There are medications to cure latent TB – it might seem strange to take medications when you don’t feel sick, but they will make sure you don’t get sick later on.
Service providers and TB
It’s important to note that TB transmission does not easily occur to healthy adults with strong immune systems who are working within health and safety guidelines. It generally requires at least eight hours of unprotected exposure to someone who is coughing in a poorly ventilated space.
As per standard advice, please wear a mask if working closely with someone who is coughing and practice hand hygiene.
If any service worker has been a close contact of someone found to have TB, SA TB Services’ contact tracing team will be in touch for a discussion and, if necessary, a skin or blood test.
If you are unwell, do a COVID test and stay home until your acute symptoms have resolved. If you have ongoing or prolonged symptoms – a cough, especially with blood or mucus, fever, sweats or unexplained weight loss call your doctor or local health clinic and discuss further testing options.
SA Health is working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Councils and local health workers to visit various communities to ‘screen’ for TB – this means doing a simple skin or blood test to see if people have the TB germ.
SA Health is also ‘contact tracing’ when someone has TB disease – this means identifying anyone who has been close to someone who is sick and checking to make sure they are healthy.
If someone asks you or your kids to take a test, you don’t need to worry – we are testing lots of people just to be safe.
We will always ask the family’s permission before testing children.
Resources and useful links
APY Lands resources
General TB resources
- Tuberculosis (TB) - including symptoms, treatment and prevention | SA Health
- SA Tuberculosis services in CALHN | SA Health
- TB cluster in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander South Australians | SA Health
- Fact sheet for patients – What is TB (PDF 169KB)
- Fact sheet for patients – Testing for TB (PDF 196KB)
- Fact sheet for patients – Treating active TB disease (PDF 176KB)
- Fact sheet for patients – TB disease medications (PDF 185KB)
- Fact sheet for patients – Treating latent TB (PDF 172KB)
- Fact sheet for patients – TB information for close contacts (PDF 171KB)
- Fact sheet for patients – Tuberculosis vaccine - Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) (PDF 194KB)
- Fact sheet for patients – TB sputum collection instructions (PDF 305KB)
- 13YARN brochure (PDF 9.8MB)
Tuberculosis vs COVID – understanding the differences (PDF 238KB)
- Tuberculosis information for service providers (PDF 208KB)
- Fact sheet for health workers – Managing TB (PDF 183KB)
- Fact sheet for health workers – Testing for TB (PDF 162KB)
- Fact sheet for health workers – Contact tracing for TB (PDF 158KB)
- Fact sheet for health workers – Infection control for TB (PDF 159KB)
- Fact sheet for health workers – People at risk for TB (PDF 180KB)
- Fact sheet for health workers – TB treatment, medications and side effects (PDF 451KB)
- Fact sheet for health workers – BCG vaccine information (PDF 179KB)
Aboriginal Public Health, Department for Health and Wellbeing, SA Health
Clinic, SA TB services, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, SA
Telephone: (08) 7117 2967