Tuberculosis warning for international students

​​​International students are 10 times more likely to develop tuberculosis than people born in Australia.

If you are from a country in Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent, South America or Eastern Europe it’s likely you have been exposed to it and are at a higher risk of being infected and getting sick from tuberculosis.

It is an infectious disease that affects the lungs, other organs and bones. It can be cured with medication but it can be fatal if left untreated.

Around 14 million people have active tuberculosis and about one third of the world's population has a latent or silent tuberculosis infection.

Information in community languages

The information is also available in below community languages:

Symptoms

Seek medical advice and give the doctor this fact sheet if you have any of these symptoms:

  • cough or fever for more than two weeks
  • excessive tiredness
  • night sweats
  • poor appetite and weight loss
  • coughing up blood.

However, some people with active tuberculosis will have no symptoms.

Treatment

If you are diagnosed with tuberculosis while in Australia you will not be asked to leave Australia.

You do not have to pay for medication to treat it. Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) will help cover costs associated with diagnosis.

If you get treated, it will not affect the conditions of your student visas, as long as you comply with treatment.

Tuberculosis spread

Tuberculosis bacteria are spread from person to person through the air. People with active tuberculosis disease in their lungs can spread the infection when they cough, sneeze, laugh, speak or sing.

Can I get tuberculosis after I have been vaccinated

The tuberculosis vaccine (BCG) helps protect young children against severe forms of tuberculosis. Even if you were vaccinated you can still get it.

I do not know anyone with tuberculosis

It is possible that you might have been exposed to tuberculosis without knowing it. Some people with tuberculosishave no symptoms and may not know they have active tuberculosis disease.

I have been checked for tuberculosis

The Visa Medical Screen includes a chest x-ray to look for active or infectious tuberculosis. Many people will have latent or silent infection which is not found on a chest x-ray. Latent or silent tuberculosis does not cause any symptoms but can progress to active and infectious tuberculosis months or years after screening.

Where to get help after arriving in Australia

Talk to your doctor, university health service or local hospital. Keep this fact sheet to give to your doctor if you have any symptoms of tuberculosis.

You can also contact healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 or visit the Healthdirect website.

Visit your state or territory health department's website for more information.