At the Victorian Tuberculosis Program (VTP), we work with you to achieve your healthiest life, through high-quality, culturally responsive care.
Anyone can get tuberculosis (TB). Everyone has their own health journey.
If you, or a member of your family, has been diagnosed with TB disease, you may be contacted by the Victorian Tuberculosis Program (VTP).
How we help
Our VTP team:
- Provides patient education
- Supports access to medication for the course of treatment
- Conducts contact tracing
- Undertakes workplace TB screening to find TB infection
- Facilitates referrals, if required
We work to ensure that every person with TB disease receives the right treatment at the right time.
Your clinical nurse consultant
You will be allocated a specialist clinical nurse consultant (CNC) to accompany you for the duration of your TB treatment.
Our CNCs work to make sure that those affected by TB disease get the appropriate treatment to treat and cure TB, including the right anti-TB medications and hospital care.
Your dedicated CNC will:
- Talk with you to understand your symptoms and experiences with accessing health care
- Check on tests
- Help you through any periods of isolation that limit the spread of TB
- Help you to understand the medications, monitor for side effects and work with the treating doctor to make sure that the treatment is the best one for you
The nurse is there to support you to make informed choices and achieve good health outcomes.
Your CNC will work with you and your treating doctor to help you get better, feel better, and stay better.
Your dedicated CNC can also help you with:
It is important to us that you are actively involved in your care. Cultural and interpreting services may be used to facilitate good communication.
Cultural and interpreting services can support either in person, via video conference or over the telephone.
TB treatment is provided free of charge in Australia for anyone who needs it.
Sometimes people benefit from help to access this treatment and our nurses work with you to establish how they can best do this.
When hospitalisation might be required
Most people have their TB treatment on an outpatient basis.
However, you may need to stay in hospital if:
- An investigation is required to establish a clear diagnosis
- There are complications associated with TB or other health concerns
- It is deemed necessary to ensure public safety due to infection risk
VTP nurses can work with you to identify family, friends, or community members who may also have acquired TB infection.
We will offer them testing and suggest treatment to prevent illness from TB.
The nurses, in listening to your story, might suggest speaking with other health carers to make it easier for you to access appropriate treatment.
Although you will mainly see your dedicated nurse, you will be encouraged to meet other members of the team. This is to make sure that you will be cared for by someone who is familiar to you. Learn more about our team.
Coping with infection
TB is an uncommon infection in Victoria, and it can be treated and cured. Anyone can get it and each person has their own journey. Your VTP nurse will work with you on your journey.
People diagnosed with TB express many different responses and feelings. Common among these are concerns about money, feeling isolated, worries about family and friends, confusion, and feeling overwhelmed.
Your dedicated nurse will help you to manage the impact of TB, the side effects of TB medication, and to see your doctor and get your medications on time. The nurse is someone that you can lean on to help cope with TB illness and treatment.
If you are worried about money, you can test your eligibility for Centrelink payments and services. If you have specific questions and want to speak to someone from Centrelink you can find the number in the Services Australia Phone Us Directory.
Centrelink has Multicultural Service Officers who work with multicultural community groups to improve access to Centrelink services. You can reach them on 13 12 02. Interpreters are available and information in your language about payments may be found on their Information in your Language web page.
If you are waiting to hear about your immigration status, you might be eligible for Status Resolution Support Services and payments.
If you are experiencing extreme financial hardship, the following services might be able to help:
- Your local council (Find your council on the Victorian Government website)
- Red Cross
- St Vincent de Paul
- Brotherhood of St Laurence
- The Salvation Army
There are also concessions and benefits in the form of grants that you may be able to get. Ask your nurse to guide you.
Ask your nurse for help
There is a range of support for people feeling isolated, alone, or overwhelmed.
Speak to your nurse if you need clarity, more information or help to make a decision about disclosing your diagnosis.
If they can’t help directly, they will know who to ask about getting help. This may come in the form of a referral to another agency, a specific resource, or a connection with social work.
A close contact is someone who has been near enough to a person with TB while they were infectious, that there is a reasonable chance they will be infected.
TB can be spread through the air when a person with active TB disease in the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes or sings. This might cause the bacteria to spray into the air and infect people who breathe it in.
To be infected you usually need close, face-to-face contact over many hours. Often the people most likely to be infected are those in the same house. If you have contact with someone with active TB, there is no reason to stop any of your usual daily activities, including going to work or school.
The following fact sheet below gives more information on TB and testing for close contacts.
Children and young people
Around 5% of all diagnoses of TB are in children and young people. TB looks different in children and young people because of their development and the immaturity of the immune system.
TB infection more often becomes TB disease and children can become much sicker. For this reason, the VTP is particularly vigilant about testing children who are 5 and under.
Children with TB disease are rarely a source of TB infection because they:
- Swallow rather than cough up sputum
- Have less force in their coughs
- Often have less bacteria
This changes as children mature. Generally by adolescence, young people can spread TB as much as adults.
Young people also have a greater risk of acquiring TB because their immune systems continue to mature and the because of the nature of the activities that they enjoy. The presentation of TB in young people is more like adults with TB than children.
The VTP works closely with the paediatric infectious diseases specialists in Victoria to ensure rapid testing and treatment to optimise outcomes for children and young people with TB.
The dedicated VTP nurse works with family and carers to make the treatment for TB as smooth and manageable as possible in busy family life.
Resources for people affected by TB
If you need help managing your medications, visit:
Active tuberculosis (TB) is a notifiable disease in Victoria.
All cases must be reported to the Department of Health by the patient’s treating doctor or the testing laboratory within 5 days of diagnosis.