Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 31: TB (tuberculosis)

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HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > Chapter 31: TB (tuberculosis)

2 people talking outside a factory while a woman stands nearby coughing.
She has been coughing for weeks. She should see a health worker.
But she’s worried that if she takes time off to see the doctor, she’ll lose her job.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a dangerous infection, usually in the lungs, that can be treated with medicine and cured. Without medicine, TB slowly destroys the lungs and causes death. Many countries have public health programs that provide free testing and free medicines for TB.

When someone who has TB coughs or sneezes, they spread TB germs into the air. Other people who breathe in the germs can get infected with TB, especially if they share a closed space with an infected person for weeks or months. Overcrowding and poor ventilation in factories, dormitories, and boarding houses help spread TB. Factories should have a TB policy that:

  • recognizes that TB is a workplace issue, educates management and workers about TB, and prohibits discrimination against workers with TB.
  • provides free, confidential, on-site TB testing and treatment or has clear guidelines that allow workers paid time off to be tested and treated, and to have time to recover before returning to work.
  • changes conditions to stop TB from spreading at work and in dormitories, by improving ventilation and relieving overcrowding.