World TB Day – Who Cares?

Tuberculosis – A highly contagious infection caused by the bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Abbreviated TB. Tubercles (tiny lumps) are a characteristic finding in TB. Diagnosis may be made by skin test, which if positive should will be followed by a chest X-ray to determine the status (active or dormant) of the infection. Tuberculosis is more common in people with immune system problems, such as AIDS, than in the general population. Treatment of active tuberculosis is mandatory by law in the US, and should be available at no cost to the patient through the public health system. It involves a course of antibiotics and vitamins that lasts about six months. –

Who cares, right?

We’re focused on asthma over here, and – by extension – allergies, colds, and influenza. But not tuberculosis. It’s 2009, and that’s a nineteenth century disease, killer of Ellizabeth Barrett Browning and John Keats.


TB has been around pretty much forever, and it persists today. Since March 24 is World TB Day, some facts and statistics for you:

— While new TB cases haven’t increased, a new WHO report finds 1 in 4 TB deaths occur in HIV-infected patients. This is twice as many as researchers thought.

— Hard-hit South Africa has reported 7,300 cases of multi-drug resistant TB and 500 cases of extremely drug resistant TB.

One-third of the world’s population is infected with TB, although not everyone who contracts the TB bacteria gets sick.

— Infected people get sick if the bacteria overwhelm their immune systems. So a weakened immune system = higher risk of TB, if exposed. People with weakened immune systems can include babies & young children, HIV patients, substance abusers, diabetes sufferers, and patients on medical treatments like corticosteroids or immunosuppressants for organ transplants.

— Close to home, California TB cases declined in 2008 but rose slightly in Pasadena and Long Beach.

— The American Lung Association was founded in 1904 to fight tuberculosis. While the group’s scope has obviously broadened, the ALA logo still reflects this history. The double-barred cross is based on the Cross of Lorraine carried during the Crusades and represents the “crusade” against TB.

Who cares about tuberculosis?

I do.

Edited 3/26/09 to add: Go check out Kerri’s TB Post for even more information.

5 responses to “World TB Day – Who Cares?”

  1. Danielle says:

    Hi Amy,

    I was going to blog about this last night but I sort of ran out of time. Tuberculosis is actually a plays a part in Canadian history as recently as the 1950s. Many of the Inuit people contracted TB in the 1950s and were sent to sanatoriums in Quebec. In 1956, one in seven Inuit were in a sanatorium in southern Canada. This kind of displacement had a great impact on their way of life upon returning to the North. Many did not speak French or English, while the nurses did not speak Inuktituk.

    A touching movie was made about this very recently, called “Ce qu’il faut pour vivre”, which I believe was to be Canada’s bid in the Academy Awards but didn’t quite make it.

    So yes, I also care very much about this topic.

  2. AsthmaGramps says:

    Well . for several reasons I care. My ethnicity is yupik and inupiat, so there is significant history of TB and attendant isolation hospitals with my people. Second, upon our return from a 2 year trip to asia in the 70′s, my wife was diagnosed with TB, and went through the cure. The meds are no fun, and they required near monthly testing to monitor for damage to the kidneys as long as she was on meds – which was a full year as I recall.
    Thanks for the article!

  3. Danielle says:

    Errm, yes sorry for the horrific grammar, I’d go back and edit if I could!

    I was very interested to read AsthmaGramps’ response.

  4. Amy says:

    I’d like to see that movie–I wonder how hard it would be to find in the U.S.?

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