Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that spread through the air when someone coughs, sneezes or, to a lesser degree, talks. It usually attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, kidneys, urinary tract and bones.

When TB enters the lungs, the immune system tries to either kill or contain the bacteria. TB that remains contained or inactive in the body is called Latent TB Infection (LTBI); it does not make a person feel sick and cannot be spread to others. LTBI can become active at any time with the risk of activation being highest in the first 2 years following infection. The risk of developing active TB disease is also increased in people that have diseases or conditions that weaken the immune system, such as in people living with HIV/AIDS. If LTBI does progress to active disease, the person will likely feel sick and may spread the germs to others. Even though tuberculosis is almost always curable with antibiotics, it continues to be a major health problem. In 2010, approximately 1.4 million deaths related to TB were reported worldwide

For most Canadians, the risk of developing tuberculosis is very low. However, there are about 1,600 new cases of tuberculosis reported in Canada every year, so it is important to know the symptoms and how to minimize your risk. Learn more about symptoms and who is at risk.

Government of Canada's Role

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting and working with communities, provincial and territorial health care systems, scientific experts and all TB partners to assist in the reduction of TB by developing scientific, evidence-based advice regarding TB prevention and control for Canada's Aboriginal populations. The Government of Canada also supports World TB Day, held each year on March 24th to mark the discovery of the cause of the disease.

As a key federal partner, the Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with experts from federal, provincial and territorial governments and organizations, coordinates and supports surveillance, guideline development and capacity building related to prevention and control of TB in Canada.

In Canada, provinces and territories have the legislated authority for TB prevention and control for their residents. Territories are solely responsible for TB prevention and control for their entire population. Health Canada, in partnership with the provinces, is responsible for assuring TB prevention and control services are either provided or accessible to First Nations living on reserve. In Nunatsiavut, Health Canada also provides funding to the Nunatsiavut Government to complement the provincial services provided to Nunatsiavut's citizens.

Learn more about tuberculosis prevention and control on the  Public Health Agency of Canada Web site.

Tuberculosis in First Nations Communities

Studies have shown that First Nations people are more at risk of getting tuberculosis than the general Canadian population. Learn more about TB in First Nations.

World Tuberculosis Day

March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day, held each year to mark the discovery of the cause of the disease.

Additional Resources

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