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World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, falling on March 24th each year, is designed to build public awareness about the still dangerous, bacterial disease called tuberculosis. Today TB still continues to take the lives of several million people across the globe each year, although proper medication is available to treat the disease. This important date honors the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch amazed the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis. At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, Germany, TB was rapidly traveling through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch's discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing the disease. As we move forward in 2012, one hundred and thirty years later, the fight against Tuberculosis still remains a battle for millions of lives.

What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB), an infection of the lungs, remains the second leading cause of death in the world. Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

How the disease spreads:
Tuberculosis is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with the disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

Why is awareness important?
Each year 8 million people around the world become ill with tuberculosis; on average one person dies of the disease every 15-20 seconds.

Tuberculosis accounts for more than twenty-five percent of all preventable adult deaths in developing countries. Tuberculosis can be cured when the disease is recognized and appropriate treatment is available.

Symptoms of the disease also develop slowly and patients may be very ill before they know that there is a problem. Early symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. Cough and chest pains are symptoms of advanced disease.

High Risk Populations:

Members of the following groups are considered high risk for this disease; the elderly and nursing home residents, alcoholics and drug abusers, health care workers or employees of correctional facilities, the homeless and the medically under-served population, and former residents of countries with a high TB incidence rate. Tuberculin skin testing is recommended for screening for persons in high-risk groups.

Tuberculin Skin Testing:

A tuberculin skin test is done to see if you currently have, or ever had tuberculosis. The test is done by putting a small amount of TB protein (antigens) under the top layer of skin on your inner forearm. If someone has ever been exposed to the TB bacteria, your skin will react to the protein (antigens) by developing a firm red bump on your forearm within 2 days; a tuberculin skin test cannot tell how long someone has been infected with TB. It also cannot tell if the infection is latent (inactive) or is active and can be passed to others.

The Global plan to STOP TB:
People of different ages and living in different countries could have these hopes for stopping TB in their lifetimes:

  • Zero deaths from TB
  • Faster treatment
  • A quick, cheap, low-tech test
  • An effective vaccine
  • A world free of TB

The World Health Organization estimates that 2 billion people worldwide have inactive TB, while around 3 million people worldwide die of TB each year. The “Stop TB Partnership” is leading the way to a world without tuberculosis (TB), a disease that is curable but still kills about three people every minute. Founded in 2001, the Partnership's mission is to serve every person who is vulnerable to TB and ensure that high-quality treatment is available to all who need it. To learn more about their ten year initiative, visit their website http://www.stoptb.org/about/.