Tuberculosis (TB) is a widespread bacterial disease that has been around for much of recorded human history. The following are some key facts about TB to learn more about what is going on with the disease.
- Symptoms of TB include persistent coughing, chest pain, fever, fatigue and chills. TB most often infects the lungs. It is a contagious disease and is transported through the air.
- In 2014, there were 9.6 million cases of TB and 1.5 million deaths as a result. According to these findings, TB was the most deadly infectious disease in the world that year.
- Ninety-five percent of deaths caused by TB occur in low- and middle-income countries. Not only does TB disproportionately affect people in these countries, but also people living in developed countries are often unaware of the prevalence and danger of TB.
- TB is particularly dangerous to those who are HIV positive. Those with HIV are 26 to 31 times more likely to develop TB than those without HIV. One-third of HIV-related deaths in 2015 were a result of a TB infection.
- Latent TB actually infects about one-third of the world’s population. In its latent form, the TB bacteria are not active, meaning they do not cause symptoms and are not contagious. However, those with latent TB have a 10 percent chance of contracting active TB in their lifetime.
- TB is a treatable disease. Typically, a properly prescribed program of antibiotics can cure the disease. However, multidrug-resistant TB, which arises due to improper treatment can pose an obstacle. When a treatment of antibiotics fails to eradicate all the bacteria, drug resistant strains can develop.
- Much progress has been made against TB. From 2000 to 2015, the incidence rate of TB dropped by 18 percent, and from 1990 to 2015, the death rate dropped by 47 percent. Another way to look at TB reduction is to realize that from 2000 to 2014, 43 million lives were saved as a result of efforts to combat TB.
- An anti-TB drug specifically for children’s use was developed early this year. In the past, children had to use adult medication, which meant manually cutting down the dosage to meet the children’s needs. The new child-specific drug comes in appropriate doses, is dissolvable in water for ease of consumption, and even tastes better.
These facts illustrate how dangerous TB is and also the progress that is being made against it as well. With additional developments, the world can hope that the U.N.’s sustainable development goal of ending the TB epidemic by 2030 will become a reality.
– Edmond Kim