In honor of World Tuberculosis Day being recognized on 24 March, I am presenting some quick facts about Tuberculosis commonly referred to as TB, some of which may surprise you.
Did you know that one in every three people in the world today are latent carriers of TB? (1)
So, what is Tuberculosis? Tuberculosis, formerly known as consumption, is a bacterial infection spread by droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. (1),(2)
TB is potentially fatal and killed 1.3 million people world wide as recently as 2012 and was among the top three causes of death for women world wide aged 15 to 44. 95% of deaths occur in low to middle income countries. (1)
Most people know that TB affects the lungs, but did you know that it may affect any part of the body, including the nervous system and bones? (2)
The biggest tell tale symptom is a persistent cough, lasting more than three weeks that produces phlegm and possibly blood. The sufferer will also have flu like symptoms. (2)
TB can be cured with effective treatment, most patients require a six month course of antibiotics whilst others may require as much as 18 months due to antibiotic resistant strains. (2)
How can I avoid getting TB? The World Health Organization recommends children be vaccinated if they live in a country endemic with TB. The U.S.A. never routinely vaccinated, but the United Kingdom vaccinated all school children at the age of 13 and all newborns from high risk groups from 1953 to 2005. TB can be prevented by limiting interaction with infected people and by properly ventilating buildings. (3)
TB is thought to be at least 6,000 years old and has killed more people in that time than any other disease. Although other diseases have outpaced TB for brief periods. (1)
Many famous people who are reported to have battled TB, some more successfully than others and in the twentieth century include Tom Jones the Welsh singer, Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants, Rube Waddel of the Philadelphia Athletics, W.C. Fields the comedian, and Nelson Mandela. Going back further in time “Doc” Holliday of OK Corral fame, the composer Frederic Chopin, and Egyptian King Tutankhamen (probably).
(1) World Health Organization 2014
(2) National Health Service U.K.
(3) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases