Commemorating World TB Day

TB-patientMarch 24 commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing to a small group of scientists at the University of Berlin’s Institute of Hygiene that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.

At the time of Koch’s announcement in Berlin, TB was raging Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch’s discovery opened the way toward diagnosing tuberculosis.

Therefore, the significance of commemorating World TB Day every year by all United Nations member states, cannot be swept under the carpet for the simple reason that it is designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of Tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease.

The theme for this year’s observation of the event was “Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone: The changing phase of TB epidemic In Ghana.” This emphasizes the seriousness the WHO is attaching to the disease in its efforts to eliminate it from the world.

In 2014, the theme was “Reach the three million.” In other words, of the 9 million people a year who get sick with TB, 3 million of them are “missed” by health systems.

The focus that year, therefore, was for countries and partners to take forward innovative approaches to reach the 3 million and ensure that anyone suffering from TB has access to TB diagnosis, treatment and cure.

Similarly, the world TB Day 2013 campaign, provided an opportunity to make progress towards global targets for reduction in TB cases and deaths in view of the fact that TB mortality had fallen over 40% worldwide since 1990, and incidence was declining.

Further progress would depend on addressing critical funding gaps: an estimated 1.6 billion United States dollars needed to implement existing TB interventions, thus the theme, “Stop TB in my lifetime.”

It is significant to recall that former United States President Bill Clinton marked TB Day 2000 by administering the WHO-recommended DOTS treatment to patients at the Mahavir Hospital in Hyderabad, India.

According to Clinton “these are human tragedies, economic calamities, and far more than crises for you, they are crises for the world. The spread of the disease is the one global problem for which no nation is immuned.”

The World TB Day is one of eighty official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Hepatitis Day and World Aids Day.

It is estimated that in 2012, 8.6 million people worldwide fell ill with TB and 1.3 million of that that number died from the disease, mostly in the Third World.

In Canada, the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health noted on World TB Day 2014 that 63% of TB cases reported nationally were among foreign born individuals and 23% among Aboriginal people, highlighting TB as a key area of concern about health equity

Tuberculosis or TB is a widespread and in many cases fatal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacterium tuberculosis.

TB typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air.

Most infections do not have symptoms, known as latent tuberculosis. About one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

The classic symptoms of active TB infection are chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

It is, therefore, imperative for all not to regard the commemoration of World TB Day every March 24 as funfair but an occasion used to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease.

It is equally imperative for all to take note of the symptoms of chronic cough, fever, night sweats and weight loss and report to the nearest health facility for diagnosis, treatment and cure Tuberculosis is deadly but curable when detected early.

By Dan Osman Mwin

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