Tuberculosis

Please note

BCG vaccine is given to protect babies against tuberculosis (TB).

BCG vaccine stock in all areas expired at the end of April 2015 and as of today, March 1 2017, the HSE continues to experience ongoing delays with the supply of BCG vaccine. This continues to be a Europe wide issue.

The number of cases of TB has been steadily falling in Ireland. The number of cases of TB for the years 2014 and 2015 was at the lowest level since records began. Most European countries do not give BCG vaccine to all babies.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), an independent expert group on immunisation and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) have both recommended that BCG vaccine does not now need to be given routinely to all babies in Ireland.

So your baby is not at risk of TB and you do not need to delay any of your baby's injections.

This page provides a brief summary of the disease and the vaccine that is available to prevent it. Links to more detailed information are provided at the bottom of the page.

 

What is Tuberculosis- T.B.?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In Ireland TB usually affects the lungs but it can affect other parts of the body such as the glands, bones, joints , kidney and it can affect the brain causing meningitis (inflammation of the lining around the brain).

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How do people get TB?

TB is usually spread by droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You need to have close and prolonged contact with an infected person to catch TB ,such as sharing a house, close contact in schools, with a child minder, friend or co-worker. 

The following groups of people are more like to become ill with TB if they are exposed to it.

  • Young children
  • Elderly people
  • Diabetics
  • People on steroids
  • People on other drugs affecting the body’s immune system
  • People who are HIV positive
  • People in overcrowded, poor housing
  • People with chronic poor health

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What are the symptoms of TB?

Symptoms of TB can include any of the following:

  • Fever and Night sweats
  • Cough (generally lasting more than 2 weeks)
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in the sputum (phlegm) at any time
  • Swollen glands
  • Tiredness
  • loss of appetite

TB is a serious illness. The most serious complications are

  • Major bleeding from the lungs (Rare)
  • Death (this occurs in 7% of cases, usually elderly people)

With effective treatment it is now possible to make a full recovery from TB.  Treatment with anti TB medication must be taken for about 6 months.

Without treatment, many people used to die from TB. It is essential to take the treatment regularly and to complete the course as prescribed.

The combination of better living conditions, antibiotics against TB, and BCG vaccine has dramatically reduced the number of cases of TB in Ireland.

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Who should get BCG Vaccine?

BCG vaccine protects against Tuberculosis (TB).

BCG vaccination is usually given to newborn babies, but can also be given to older children and adults who are considered to be at risk of developing TB. Only one dose of BCG vaccination is needed.

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Who should not get BCG vaccine?

BCG is not recommended in the following circumstances

  • A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous BCG vaccine or any part of a vaccine
  • Previous BCG vaccine
  • Past history of TB
  • Pregnancy
  • Positive tuberculin test
  • Family history of problems with the immune system
  • People who are known to be HIV Positive

Some medication taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding including high dose steroids or drugs that affect the immune system can interfere with the response of BCG vaccine.

BCG vaccine should be delayed for 6 months if the baby’s mother has been on long-term treatment that severely suppresses the immune system.

Please advise the doctor or nurse at the BCG clinic if you have been on any medication whilst pregnant or breastfeeding. The BCG may not be recommended while on this medication.

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My baby has not had their BCG vaccine yet. Should I delay getting the 6 in 1 and PCV vaccine?

No. The 6 in 1 and PCV vaccine can be given. They can be given before or on the same day or after the BCG vaccine.

Vaccines can be live (example BCG, MMR) or not live (example 6 in 1, PCV, MenC).

Two live vaccines can be given on the same day. However if this is not possible you must wait four weeks before your baby can have another live vaccine. Live vaccines and vaccines that are not live do not affect each other. The 6 in 1 vaccine and PCV vaccine can be given before, or after the BCG vaccine.

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My baby has already had a dose of 6 in 1 vaccine. Can they still get BCG vaccine?

Yes. BCG can be given at the same time as any killed vaccine therefore it can be given with 6 in 1 vaccine or at any time interval between 2 doses of 6 in 1 vaccine. There is no need to delay the 6 in 1 vaccine after getting BCG vaccine.

It is important to get all vaccines on time to provide maximum protection for your baby.

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What to expect after BCG Vaccine?

The expected reaction to a successful BCG vaccination seen in 90-95% of people is redness at the injection site followed by a lesion, which starts as a papule two or more weeks after vaccination. It may scab and then slowly subside over several weeks or months to heal leaving a small flat scar.

  • 1 in 100 may get small swollen glands under the arm
  • Up to 1 in 1000 may get an infection, which responds to treatment.

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How does BCG Vaccine work?

The vaccine contains a weakened (“attenuated”) form of a bacteria related to the one that causes tuberculosis. This stimulates the immune system to protect against tuberculosis.

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How effective is BCG vaccine?

Almost 80% of infants will become immune to tuberculosis when vaccinated with BCG.

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Where can I find out more?

You can ask for further information regarding immunisation from your G.P., Public Health Nurse or local health office

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This page was updated on 16 March 2017