Risks of tuberculosis (TB)

Learn about the risks of tuberculosis (TB) and who is most at risk.

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What are the risks of getting tuberculosis?

For most Canadians, the risk of developing TB is very low.

Who is most at risk?

You have a higher risk of getting TB if you:

  • have been around people known or suspected to have tuberculosis
  • have had tuberculosis in the past but did not complete treatment as prescribed
  • use illegal inhaled or injected drugs which:
    • weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to TB
    • often occurs in confined spaces where TB is easily spread
  • live or work in:
    • a community with high rates of tuberculosis, such as some First Nation reserves
    • the heavily populated central area of a city, especially if you are homeless
    • a long-term care facility
    • a prison
    • a homeless shelter
    • a refugee camp
  • have been in a country with high rates of tuberculosis, including if you:
    • were born in a high-risk country
    • have travelled to a high-risk country
    • have visited friends and relatives in a high-risk country
    • have had an organ transplant

Other factors that can put you at higher risk include if you:

  • have certain diseases or conditions, such as:
    • HIV and AIDS
    • silicosis (a type of lung disease)
    • long-term kidney disease requiring dialysis (a treatment to replace some of the functions of your kidneys)
    • cancer of the head or neck
    • diabetes
  • have had certain drug treatments that can affect your immune system, (ability to fight infection), such as:
    • cancer treatments (chemotherapy)
    • medications following an organ transplant
    • medications for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • are underweight
  • smoke 1 or more packs of cigarettes per day
  • drink more than 3 alcoholic beverages regularly

Risks to travellers

Human cases of bovine tuberculosis are rare in developed countries because of pasteurization and testing programs.

You may be at risk if you travel for long periods of time to countries with high rates of TB.

As a traveller, you should also be aware of bovine tuberculosis. You can get bovine TB if you:

  • consume unpasteurized milk or dairy products from an infected:
    • cow
    • goat
    • sheep
    • buffalo
  • inhale bacteria breathed out by infected animals
  • inhale bacteria released from infected animal:
    • carcasses (dead animals)
    • waste, such as feces
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