Every year on March 24th, World Tuberculosis Day seeks to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis. The observance also aims to increase efforts to eliminate the deadly disease.
Tuberculosis (also known as TB or consumption) is an infectious disease that affects the lungs. The disease spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Some people who have TB don’t have any symptoms. The bacteria that causes TB can sometimes lie dormant for many years. A dormant disease is called a latent infection. Up to 10 percent of those with a latent infection become sick. Those who develop symptoms have a cough, sometimes tinged with blood. They might also experience weight loss, fever, and night sweats.
During the 1800s, TB was the deadliest killer in human history. In the United States alone, 1 out of 7 people who had the disease died. Today, while no longer common in the U.S., tuberculosis still affects 1.8 billion people in the world. Found in every country in the world, tuberculosis is considered a global pandemic. In 2019, 10 million people were diagnosed with tuberculosis. Of those, 1.5 million people died. Women, children, and those with HIV/AIDS are among the most vulnerable to getting the disease.
Most cases of TB occur in developing countries. About 87 percent of TB cases occur in 8 countries, including:
- South Africa
In 2018, only 9,025 cases of TB were diagnosed in the United States. About half of these cases occurred in California, Texas, New York, and Florida. There are concerns that TB bacteria could become resistant to the drugs used to treat it.
There is a vaccination for TB. However, most people in the United States do not get it, simply because they will never be at risk for the disease. In developing countries, many people do not have access to the vaccination.
HOW TO OBSERVE #WorldTuberculosisDay
On this day, global leaders are encouraged to improve access to TB prevention and treatment. They are also encouraged to end the discrimination of those with TB. To participate in this day:
- Learn about the history of TB and its impact on the global population.
- Donate to an organization, such as TB Alliance, that provides TB drugs to those in need.
- Watch the documentary, The Forgotten Plague.
- Read about famous people who contracted TB, including Eleanor Roosevelt, George Orwell, Nelson Mandela, Tina Turner, and Ringo Starr.
To spread awareness for this day, share #WorldTuberculosisDay on social media.
WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY HISTORY
In 1982, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease proposed the observance, World TB Day on March 24th. The date marked the one-hundredth anniversary of Dr. Robert Koch’s discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes the disease. Over a decade later, the WHO’s World Health Assembly and the United Nations recognized World Tuberculosis Day. By 1998, nearly 200 organizations participated in the day.