Nearly 20 years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Tuberculosis a global public health emergency and has made it a priority to track and reduce cases worldwide. World Tuberculosis Day, March 24, is time to praise the overall success with numbers of cases worldwide dropping, however, there is still a tremendous problem in poorer countries and even in populations within the United States.
Tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease that usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect the brain, the kidneys or other parts of the body. TB is spread through the air from person to person. Taking several antimicrobial drugs for 6 to 12 months generally treats it. While many TB symptoms are similar to a severe flu, the lung symptoms – coughing, chest pain, and the coughing up of blood – are most indicative.
Here are five facts about TB and its prevalence in U.S. and world today:
- The number of people getting TB each year is declining. The death rate from TB dropped 45 percent between 1990 and 2012; and the WHO is optimistic about meeting its goal to reverse the spread of TB by 2015. That’s the good news.
- The bad news that, in 2012, 8.6 million people came down with TB and 1.3 million died, according to the WHO. TB is second to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide from an infectious agent. It is also one of the top three causes of death for women between 15 and 44.
- Eighty percent of TB cases in recent years occurred in 22 countries. More than half (60 percent) of all new TB cases occurred in Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest proportion of new cases per population. This is largely because of the fact that one-third of people with HIV worldwide are also infected with TB bacteria, which may or may not become active TB. Seventy-five percent of those with HIV and TB are living in Africa.
- In the United States, TB infection rates are also declining. However, more than half of all TB cases in recent years occurred in four states: California, New York, Texas, and Florida. This is attributable to the fact that those states have large immigrant populations and nearly 80 percent of all U.S. cases were contracted outside the country.
- There are large racial disparities in TB cases within the U.S. According to 2010 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 84 percent of TB cases in the country occurred in racial and ethnic minorities (29 percent in Hispanics, 28 percent in Asians and 24 percent in Blacks).
Tuberculosis has long been feared as a deadly disease. But, like small pox and polio, it does not have to be anymore. The statistics overall give encouraging news. But, World Tuberculosis Day is a good time to remember the fight isn’t over yet.
World Health Organization
Modern Health Care
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention