Only people with contagious TB can infect other people. When such a person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets are released into the air. These droplets contain the TB bacterium. Other people can become infected when they inhale the droplets.

The TB bacterium can only spread through the air. 


Vaccination against TB reduces your chances of becoming seriously ill. In the Netherlands, this vaccination (known as the ‘BCG vaccination’) is given only to young children who have at least one parent from a country with a high rate of TB. Certain groups of travellers may be vaccinated as well.


When someone is likely to have been infected with TB, there is a way to test for it. This usually involves a skin test (Mantoux) and/or a blood test (IGRA). Sometimes the person’s lungs are X-rayed to see if they have TB. In addition, the mucus they have coughed up can be tested in a laboratory. 

Treatment for TB 

Have you been infected with the TB bacterium? You can take medication to reduce your chances of becoming ill. 

People who are ill with TB must be treated quickly. If you suspect that someone in your family has TB, call the Municipal Public Health Service’s TB prevention department or go see your GP. 

Isolation and coughing hygiene 

People with contagious TB must self-isolate for two to three weeks. This is the period during which they are contagious. Isolation prevents them from infecting others. It is also important to learn how to cough and sneeze correctly. This helps prevent the spread of the disease. If you must cough or sneeze, do the following:

  • Use a paper tissue. If you do not have a paper tissue at hand, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or turn your face away from others.
  • Throw the tissue away after use.

Who can develop TB?

Some people are at greater risk of becoming infected with TB:

  • People who have been in the same room as someone with contagious TB
  • People who have travelled to regions where TB is common, such as Africa, Asia and eastern Europe If you are planning a trip to one of these regions, ask the Municipal Public Health Service’s TB prevention department what you should do to protect yourself.

Some people are at a greater risk of becoming ill with TB:

  • Small children (under the age of five)
  • People whose immune system has been weakened by illness and people who take medication that limits their body’s immune response.

Read more about the treatment of TB.