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It's Time

The 24th of March each year has been set aside by all UN member states to raise public awareness on Tuberculosis (TB). This yearly event marks the discovery of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in 1882 (the bacteria responsible for causing Tuberculosis) by Dr Robert Koch.

This event has been celebrated yearly since 1997 with different themes for each year.

The 2019 theme for world TB day is “it’s time”

This theme is a call for world leaders to put into action the commitments made to control and eradicate this global epidemic.

Global burden of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is the world’s deadliest infectious killer and is responsible for about, 30,000 illnesses and 4500 deaths daily. In 2017, there were about 10 million cases of TB infections affecting 5.8 million men, 3.2 million women and 1 million children worldwide. There were also about 1.6 million TB related deaths that year. Two thirds of the world’s global burden of TB are found in eight major countries (India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa). The burden of TB is low in Europe and North America representing about 6% of global cases. About 23% of the world’s population have latent TB and are at risk of developing an active infection in their lifetime.

Diagnosis and successful treatment of TB prevented about 54 million deaths between 2000-2017. To close the gaps in detection of TB an initiative “Find all, treat all” was developed by the WHO in collaboration with other partners.

Transmission

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. This infection affects the lungs primarily but can also affect other organs in the body such as the kidneys, brain, liver, heart, and the reproductive organs. TB can be spread through the air form one person to another by talking, coughing, sneezing. Not all people who come in contact with the bacteria that causes TB get infected. Some people’s bodies through the immune system can fight off the disease and others can develop an inactive form of the disease called latent TB. Later on, in life these people can get a full disease when their immune systems become weak. Some medical conditions that weaken the immune system such as HIV/AIDs can also make certain people get TB more easily than others. The signs and symptoms of TB affecting the lungs include: fever, chills, cough, weakness, chest pain, coughing up blood and weight loss. When people get TB in certain areas of the body it can cause swellings in these areas. Also, some people may become unconscious when TB affects their brain.

Prevention and control

The global burden of TB can be reduced by giving infants and children the Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine and treating people with latent TB.

Another way of reducing the global burden is by diagnosing and treating active TB with appropriate medications to reduce the spread.

The challenge with treatment of TB is drug resistance. This happens when the bacteria causing TB changes its structure and does not respond to the normal drugs used in treatment. In such cases, people need to be treated with other kinds of drugs which may be toxic to the body and cause more side effects.

The standard treatment for TB is 6 months and it is divided into 2 phases called the intensive phase and the continuation phase. The treatment for TB is usually long because the bacteria grows very slowly. During the intensive phase 4 drugs are used while 2 drugs are used during the continuation phase. People with drug resistant TB may need to be on admission during treatment to achieve cure and success so that it does not progress further.

Progress so far

Several campaigns have been launched by different organizations including World Health Oorganization (WHO) and other partners to eradicate TB. They include:

  1. The stop TB strategy- with a goal to dramatically reduce the burden of TB by 2015 in line with the millennium development goals (MDGs).
  2. The WHO end TB strategy- with a goal of ending the global TB epidemic by 2035.

Way forward

The cmessage for the general public, this year is: It is time to know your TB status, it’s time to get tested for TB, it is time for a world without TB!!

 

References

World Health Organization. The Global Tuberculosis Report, 2018. Retrieved from:  https://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/en/.

World Health Organization. World Tuberculosis Day 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/03/24/default-calendar/world-tb-day-2019.  

World Health Organization. The Stop TB strategy. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/tb/strategy/stop_tb_strategy/en/.

World Health Organization. The End TB strategy. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/tb/post2015_TBstrategy.pdf?ua=1.

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