Why Is TB Still So Common In Pakistan And What Are The Risk Factors?


Tuberculosis often referred to as TB, is a serious illness that is very common in Pakistan. It is caused by TB bacteria, which can be spread by tiny droplets when someone with TB in their lungs talks, coughs or sneezes.

TB in Pakistan

Pakistan ranks 5th globally among the 22 high TB burden countries. It is due to poor living condition (people live in overcrowded houses) lack of vaccination awareness and lack of access to health care which prevents early diagnosis and treatment.

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If you breathe in TB bacteria:

  1. Your body can kill the bacteria before they can make you ill.
  2. The TB bacteria can make you ill – this is called ‘active TB’.
  3. The TB bacteria can remain asleep in your body – this is called ‘latent TB’.

Situation 1

If you have a good immune system then your body will kill the bacteria and you have nothing to worry about.

Situation 2

If you have active TB, you will feel ill and could pass TB on to others. Common symptoms include a cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite and tiredness. Active TB can be cured with antibiotics. It takes up to 9 months of antibiotics to cure.

Remember even if you are vaccinated for TB you can still get it.

Situation 3

If you have latent TB, you will not have symptoms and you cannot pass TB
on to others. This is because the TB bacteria are ‘asleep’ in your body. However, the bacteria might ‘wake up’ at any time, making you ill. This is more likely if your immune system comes under stress. Antibiotic treatment can help stop this from happening.


Without treatment, there is a 10 % chance that the latent TB will become active in your lifetime.

Remember even if you are vaccinated for Tb you can still get it.

You may be more at risk of getting TB if you:

  1. You have come in contact with someone who has, or has had, TB.
  2. Have a health condition that weakens your immune system like having HIV or even being underweight makes you more at risk.
  3. Live in crowded or poorly ventilated accommodation.
  4. Work in a health or social care setting.

Remember TB is a curable disease if caught early and treated appropriately!

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