Tuberculosis (TB), the Mantoux Test & BCG Vaccine
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection usually affecting the lungs. It does not represent a significant risk to most travellers. A vaccine against TB (the BCG vaccine) is available. It is sometimes used in individuals who are considered to be at particularly high risk of exposure to TB. In an Irish setting, this means healthcare workers. The BCG is sometimes recommended for children under 16 years of age who have not been previously vaccinated with it and who are due to live in certain Developing Countries for more than one month.
Before the BCG vaccine is administered, a special skin test (the Mantoux Test, which is also known as the PPD or Heaf test) needs to be done at some point in a 3-month period before the BCG is administered. The Mantoux Test produces a result 2 - 3 days after being done. The BCG vaccine can be administered only if the Mantoux Test shows a 'negative' result. The Mantoux Test is normally done in the skin of the forearm, at a point mid-way between the elbow and the wrist. The BCG vaccine is administered in the skin at the top of the arm.
If BCG vaccination is done in an adult, it is normally done once only; current recommendations are that it should not be repeated in the future. Ideally, if the BCG vaccine has been administered, other vaccines should not be administered in the same arm for a period of 3 months.
The Mantoux test is a skin test that is sometimes done in order, among other things, to confirm that a patient is free of TB infection. The Mantoux Test is most commonly done in the following situations:
- As part of immigration requirements to some countries (e.g. student visas for the USA)
- To check for or to confirm the absence of TB in healthcare workers
- To check for or to confirm the absence of TB in aid agency staff who have been working in Developing Countries.