August 05, 2021

How Do You Get Tuberculosis (TB) Meningitis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne infectious disease that typically affects the lungs. It’s caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB can be treated, but if treatment isn’t given to a patient promptly, the infection can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. In some cases, that produces what’s called TB meningitis. TB meningitis causes symptoms that develop gradually and then grow in severity. Ultimately, the disease can be deadly.

Here, we explain how you contract TB meningitis, including risk factors and how contagious it is.

How is TB Meningitis Transmitted?

Tuberculosis bacteria can enter your body when you inhale droplets exhaled by someone with TB when they cough or sneeze. That’s the most common TB meningitis mode of transmission.

After multiplying in the lungs, the bacteria can get into your bloodstream. If the bacteria travel to membranes around the brain and spinal cord and form small abscesses that subsequently burst, TB meningitis develops. The disease can occur immediately or years after the initial infection.

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Risk Factors

TB and TB meningitis can affect anyone. However, some people are at higher risk. This includes those who have a history of: 

How Contagious is Tuberculosis Meningitis?

TB meningitis generally isn’t a concern in the U.S. The fact that it’s not particularly contagious here is due to the high vaccination rate for TB. However, if you’ll be traveling abroad, it’s important to ask, “How contagious is tuberculosis meningitis in our intended destination?” 

How Common is Tuberculosis Meningitis?

As noted above, the fact that a significant percentage of Americans are vaccinated against TB makes TB meningitis a rare diagnosis here. The disease is more common in developing countries, where children up to four years of age are most at risk.

Learn More About Tuberculosis from Baptist Health

TB meningitis is a life-threatening disease. Fortunately, it’s uncommon in the U.S., and if you contract the disease, prompt treatment tends to be effective. Learn more about tuberculosis from Baptist Health, or find a provider near you.

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Find a Provider Near You
What is Meningitis? Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention
Why Can’t I Stop Coughing?
Bacterial and Viral Infections

Learn More.