How To Differentiate Between Tuberculosis and COVID-19. Know Symptoms And Risks Indicating Towards TB

Tuberculosis and COVID are similar diseases which target lungs of the person and have created large number of deaths. Know how to identify TB.

Written by: Puru Bansal Updated at: 2021-05-15 11:30

The world has been undertaken by diseases for longer than we know.  Distinct types of diseases have been following over before since 150 million years. The only change which has taken place over the years is that now we also have manmade diseases and infections. Tuberculosis is also one of them, having been discovered in 1882. But even before then, tuberculosis existed as it came from Mycobacterium tuberculosis which can be said as its ancestors. Today COVID-19 has created havoc globally alike which was once done by Tuberculosis until its antibiotic was made. Evidently both have quite some similarities which make it tough to make out between the two. So let us know the major difference to identify these diseases. 

Inputs from Dr. Sumeet Nigam, General Physician at Sahara Hospital Lucknow

Tuberculosis Vs COVID-19

TB is a highly infectious disease which attack lungs primarily. It is one of the deadliest diseases which have been taking lives of around 1 million people each year. Corona Virus is also an infectious disease which targets lungs and respiratory system of the person. Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria whereas corona is genetically related to severe acute respiratory syndrome. Both of them can spread through physical contact and are highly contagious in nature. 

Mycobacterium TB remains suspended in air longer and is limited to a confined space. On the contrary COVID spreads quickly and in a short interaction. Tuberculosis after getting inside your lungs waits for your immune system to get weak and then infects the lungs. It not only then infects the lungs but also attacks you central nervous system and persists for long duration. Corona virus attacks your immune system and symptoms of it start becoming visible in 3-4 days. It weakens the body and attacks the respiratory system of the body. If the corona virus remains in the upper respiratory tract then it is easy to recover but below that it becomes sever and causes severe health conditions. 

How To Identify Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis may not be identified for a longer period of time. Hence it is important to understand the symptoms in order to identify if it is COVID or Tuberculosis.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis-

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of COVID-19-

  • Trouble Breathing
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Inability to stay awake
  • New confusion
  • Pale, grey or blue skin, lips or nails.
  • Fever
  • Loss of taste
  • Loss of Smell
  • Anxiety

There are other symptoms as well that indicate towards corona virus but these are some factors which are evident and can be easily indentified.

As you must have noticed there are prevalent difference between COVID-19 symptoms and tuberculosis. Except for fever and cough, there is no such reason to be confused between the two. Night sweats, appetite loss and weight loss does not occur in corona virus which is major symptom for TB. 

Also Read- Asthma, Anxiety and COVID-19: How Asthmatics Can Cope With Covid Stress & Anxiety

Who Is At Risk For Tuberculosis?

People who consume tobacco or misuse drugs are at higher chances of developing this disease. Even alcohol abuse is also a cause which leads towards TB. People having these habits are often diagnosed with HIV and other immune system issues. Active TB is leading disease when it comes to people who have died due to HIV. People having these diseases are more likely to get an active TB, it includes-

  • Diabetes
  • Severe end-stage kidney disease
  • Malnourishment 
  • Certain cancers

It becomes even more dangerous when you realise that some medications that suppress immune system also increase the risk of active TB. Medicines which help prevent organ transplant rejection can increase the risk of TB. Other than that some of the medications of severe diseases also cause active TB like-

  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Lupus

How Is Tuberculosis Treated?

Unlike COVID, TB takes months to get treated. Fortunately treatment of Tuberculosis is available but the whole treatment should be completed without any break. A single break can make the infection come back and also make the previous medication resistant. People who are diagnosed with TB generally have to take combination of medicines for 6-9 months without fail. Otherwise the treatment would have to be repeated and there are chances that previous medication would not work the other time.

Some of the common medication which doctors prescribe for treatment of Tuberculosis are-

  • Isoniazid
  • Ethambutol
  • Pyrazinamide
  • Rifampin
  • Rifapentine 

Also Read- Asthma Vs COPD: Know The Differences And Similarities

Can TB Medicines Cause Damage To The Liver?

Yes, the medications used in treating TB are of high power which can affect your liver adversely in some cases. You should be aware of the symptoms leading to liver-injury such as-

  • Dark urine
  • Appetite loss
  • Loss lasting more than 3 days
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice o r turning yellow skin
  • Abdominal pain

In such cases you must consult your doctor immediately and seek medical care. You can also take care of this by regular medical check-ups and blood tests.


Tuberculosis and COVID-19 both of them attack the lungs and can cause serious damage to health. They both are highly contagious and have great harm to human life. TB does not spread as easily as corona virus and is limited to a zone whereas COVID spreads rapidly even through the slightest contact. To identify the difference you must know the symptoms of TB and COVID-19 so that you are able to differentiate the difference. TB also attacks other parts of the body and can cause death if the treatment is not done within time. Medication of TB is also harmful for the liver hence be aware of the symptoms and consult your doctor as soon as you notice something unusual.

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