Important FAQs on TB and Covid-19

When COVID-19 infection is scaling up to multiple folds, there are other respiratory tract infections like tuberculosis (TB), which are grabbing attention these days. Both the infections invite and bring devastating health consequences. TB and COVID-19 are infectious diseases that predominantly attack the lungs. Yes! They are transmitted by the respiratory route and in the same way the prevention measures for both the infections are also somewhat same. We all know that TB’s existence is everywhere around the globe and in no country, it is completely eradicated. Well! In such a scenario, the key strategy for safety is to follow the proper respiratory hygiene. Care must be taken when someone sneezes or coughs and the protocol of isolation and medical evaluation should be adhered to break the transmission of infection.

Many questions might be running in the mind of TB survivors and the individuals who are undergoing the TB treatment. To help them out, here we have answered a few basic questions. Keep reading!

1) Are individuals with active TB at greater risk of COVID-19 infection?

If you are a TB fighter, it doesn’t mean that you will get COVID-19 infection. But, if you are suffering from a pulmonary lung infection like TB, then your vulnerability to serious COVID-19 consequences is more.

2) How likely is it to get COVID-19 infection if diagnosed with latent TB?

Individuals diagnosed with latent TB are unlikely to be more at the risk of developing COVID-19 infection than other individuals.

3) I have a previous history of TB. Am I at a greater risk of getting infected with COVID-19?

Individuals who had TB, post-TB lung disease, or had lung surgery should limit the exposure to high risk environment. Also, be vigilant to introduce strict measures like social distancing and good health practices to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.

4) What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and TB?

Symptoms of COVID-19:

  • High fever

  • Persistent cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chills

  • Muscle pains

  • Sore throats

  • Loss of smell or taste

  • Diarrhoea

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Runny nose or congestion

Symptoms of TB:

  • Cough

  • Fever

  • Night sweats

  • Weight loss

  • Loss of appetite

  • Extreme tiredness

5) How COVID-19 and TB spread to others? Is there any similarity in the ways of transmission?

Both COVID-19 and TB spread by close contact but the mode of transmission differs in both the cases. If a TB patient coughs, sneezes, shouts or sings, the droplets containing the infectious virus remain suspended in the air for several hours and people who inhale get infected. Whereas, COVID-19 infected individuals when they cough, sneeze, or speak, the expelled droplets containing the virus can infect a person if inhaled directly. Also, when these droplets fall on the surfaces, people get infected when they touch them and again touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. In case of TB, the transmission does not happen by touching the clothes, utensils, toilet, drinking glass, hands, or other surfaces used or touched by the TB patient.

6) How to protect TB individuals from the impact of COVID-19?

  • Stay connected with your doctor and inform if you develop any new symptom

  • Never miss taking TB medication as prescribed by the doctor

  • Stockpile your TB medicines to evade stock-outs

  • Avoid or limit the visit to TB clinics.

  • Don’t step out without wearing a mask while attending a TB clinic

  • Keep TB care contact numbers handy

7) I am feeling anxious about COVID-19 and TB. How to manage my situation?

Getting depressed, feeling anxious or stressed during the current pandemic crisis is explicable. Taking measures to support your health and well-being is crucial to combat the virus. Hence,

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle

  • Practice rigorous hand hygiene

  • Social distancing is the key

  • Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet

  • Stay away from alcohol and tobacco-based products

  • Connect with your family and friends through social media

  • Develop strategies like yoga and meditation

  • Detach from the plethora of COVID information that is floating around.

8) Does the use of BCG vaccine protect individuals against COVID-19?

Currently, there is no evidence. Recent studies state that BCG vaccine may protect COVID-19 individuals, but clinical studies are underway to confirm the effectiveness of BCG vaccine to address people with COVID-19 infection.

9) What ideal test is carried out to detect COVID-19 and TB?

Microbiological-based confirmation is done to confirm the presence of pathogens in both TB and COVID-19 patients. In the case of TB, the sputum sample is taken to check for TB bacteria, whereas for COVID-19, the respiratory tract samples are collected from the back of the mouth or nose to test for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

10) What should I do if I get infected with COVID-19 while on TB treatment?

Inform your healthcare provider and continue with your TB treatment. Strictly adhere to the practices of social distancing, regular hand washing, mask-wearing, and avoiding public gatherings to contain the spread of COVID-19 infection.

Disclaimer: The above information is an overview of TB and COVID-19 and is subject to change based on the current and future research findings. Hence, keep tracking up-to-date information and stay informed to get relief from frequent panicking episodes of worries.

Keep yourself safe and connected!