Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and most often affects the lungs. TB is spread through the air when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit. Worldwide, 10 million people are infected with TB each year and 1.5 million would die from it. WHO has estimated that more than 25% of the world’s population is infected by TB bacteria, but only 5-15% of these will show symptoms.
25th March is World Tuberculosis Day. Each year we commemorate World TB Day to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
The origin of World Tuberculosis Day
World TB Day was established to commemorate the discovery of the tuberculosis bacteria by Dr Robert Koch on March 24, 1882. Dr Koch’s discovery was a major breakthrough in the fight against TB, which was one of the deadliest diseases of the time.
The first World TB Day was observed on March 24, 1982, to raise awareness about the disease and its impact on global health. The event in 1982 was organized by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD). The organization played a key role in the early efforts to control TB and was instrumental in establishing World TB Day as an annual event to raise awareness about the disease and its impact on global health. The day was officially recognized by the WHO in 1995 as part of a global effort to control and ultimately eliminate TB.
Since then, World TB Day has been observed annually on March 24th, with a different theme every year. The day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about TB, promote advocacy efforts, and mobilize resources towards the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of TB. The IUATLD continues to be involved in the global fight against TB and other lung diseases, advocating for increased funding, research, and political commitment to end these diseases.
Symptoms of TB
TB comes in many forms, including lung TB, TB meningitis, pericardial TB, adrenal TB etc. Most people infected with TB mainly present with respiratory symptoms on top of systemic complaints:
- Persistent cough for three weeks or longer
- Chest pain, heaviness or discomfort
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood, phlegm
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of TB involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. Some of the commonly used tools include tuberculin skin tests, interferon-gamma release assays, chest X-rays, sputum culture and molecular tests. The standard treatment for lung TB involves four antibiotics: isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. It’s essential to take all the medications as prescribed, even if the symptoms improve before completing the full course of treatment. Stopping the medication too soon can lead to drug resistance, making TB harder to treat. The treatment period can last anywhere between three months to more than a year, depending on the severity and clinical presentation.
2023 – Yes! We can end TB!
Despite being one of the most fearful and infectious diseases more than 100 years ago, TB is medically treatable and its transmission is preventable, in fact, much easier than treating and controlling COVID-19.
World TB Day 2023, with the theme ‘Yes! We can end TB!’, aims to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic. This year is critical, with opportunities to raise visibility and political commitment at the 2023 UN High-Level Meeting on TB. This year the spotlight of World TB Day will be on urging countries to ramp up progress in the lead-up to the 2023 UN High-Level Meeting on TB. WHO will also issue a call to action with partners urging Member States to accelerate the rollout of the new WHO-recommended shorter all-oral treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB. Together, we can end TB!