Tuberculosis (TB) is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide and the first leading cause from a single infectious agent. TB is also the leading killer of HIV-positive people.
According to data from the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10.4 million people fell ill with TB In 2016. A quarter of those people are from Africa (2.5 million people). In the same year, 1.7 million died from TB globally with 417,000 deaths (over 25 %) from the African region.
The World Health Organisation also attests to the fact that tuberculosis continues to be one of the deadliest infectious diseases, claiming the lives of nearly 4000 people every day and infecting 28,000.
Tuberculosis, a curable and preventable disease, mostly affects the lungs. The infection spreads through the air when the person suffering from it coughs or sneezes. If a healthy person inhales those germs, s/he can get infected.
Common symptoms of active lung TB are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.
TB has effective treatment and can be cured. It is treated with a standard 6 months course of 4 antimicrobial drugs under the supervision of a health worker or a trained person.
There is a slightly effective vaccine for TB. It provides mild protection against infection transmission. Stopping the transmission between adults is the first effective step of prevention. This is done by identifying patient s with active TB and cure them.
Another aspect is identifying people with latent TB and prevent the development of active infectious TB. Tuberculosis infection control through preventing the transmission in different settings such as hospitals is a crucial step for prevention.
Significance of World Tuberculosis Day -‘ The Clock is Ticking’
World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed on 24 March to mark the discovery of the cause behind the deadly disease. The day is meant to spread awareness about tuberculosis and its devastating health, social and economic consequences.
Every year, World Tuberculosis Day is observed with a particular theme. In 2021, the theme is ‘The Clock is Ticking’. According to WHO, it emphasizes that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments made by the global leaders to end tuberculosis.
“This is especially critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put End TB progress at risk,” the WHO said in a statement.
While efforts to end COVID-19 have continued to gather steam with the successful rollout of vaccines in several countries, health experts believe the pandemic’s ripple effect – disrupting other health targets – will have an adverse impact on the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis.
The day marks the discovery of the cause behind the disease
On this day in 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium which causes tuberculosis. He claimed that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacillus causes the infection. This discovery paved the way towards diagnosing and curing the disease. According to Stop TB Partnership, at the time when Koch made the discovery, tuberculosis was the reason behind the death of one out of every seven people in Europe and America.
In 2018, at a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, member nations came together and made commitments to end the global epidemic.