March 24 is World TB Day

World TB Day is held every year on March 24 because this was the date March 24, 1882, when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes TB.  World TB day is a time to raise awareness about the impact of TB all over the world, which is still one of the world’s deadliest diseases:

  • A quarter (1/4) of the people of the world are infected with TB.
  • In 2017, 10.0 million people around the world became sick with TB disease.
  • There were 1.3 million TB-related deaths worldwide.
  • TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV infected.

This year’s theme is “It’s TIME”.

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB is a contagious airborne disease spread from person to person by coughing, spitting, sneezing or speaking.

Signs & Symptoms

The most common place for TB bacteria to grow is in the lungs and this is called active Pulmonary TB. Many of the symptoms for TB are similar to other lung diseases like lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Anyone having any of the following symptoms must seek medical advice and attention:

  • Bad cough that lasts three or more weeks
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • No appetite
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.

Treatment for Active TB

According to the CDC, TB is mainly treated with several types of antibiotic drugs over a long period of time for 6 to 9 months. It is crucial that people who have TB finish all the drugs exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick with TB again. If they do not take the drugs correctly, the TB bacteria that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. While rare, there are some strains of TB that have become resistant to antibiotics whereby the antibiotics no longer work to cure TB.

Latent TB Infection

People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms and cannot spread TB to others. Some people with latent TB never get an active case of TB, but if the immune system is weakened, then the latent TB can become active and make the person very sick.

Latent TB is discovered with a skin or blood test whereby they get a positive reaction.

Risk Factors for TB

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) those who are at risk for developing TB include:

  • Close contacts of a person with infectious TB disease
  • People who have immigrated from areas of the world with high rates of TB
  • Children less than 5 years of age who have a positive TB test
  • Groups with high rates of TB transmission, such as homeless people, injection drug users and people with HIV (AIDS) infection
  • People who work or reside with people who are at high risk for TB in facilities or institutions
  • People who became infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years.
  • People who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system
  • Elderly people
  • People who were not treated correctly for TB in the past
  • People who have had organ transplants or are being treated with corticosteroids
  • People whose immune systems have become weakened from immunosuppressive agents like chemo therapy and TNF-blockers
  •  Diabetes – Diabetics made up 19.9% of new cases of TB in 2017.
  • Silicosis
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Low body weight
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Specialized treatment for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease
  •  Intestinal bypass or gastrectomy
  • Chronic malabsorption syndromes
  • Persons with radiographic evidence of old, healed TB lesions.

TB in the United States

According to the CDC in 2018, a total of 9,029 new tuberculosis (TB) cases were reported in the United States, representing a 0.7% decrease from 2017.

Among the 9,029 TB cases reported in the United States in 2018, approximately two thirds or 69.5% (6,276) occurred in people who were not born in the United States.

In 2016, the most recent data available, 528 deaths in the United States were caused by TB. This is an increase from 470 deaths attributed to TB in 2015.


Let us hope that TB will be eradicated from the United States and all over the world.

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