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The Worldwide Menace Of The Deceptive Killer Tuberculosis

The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that showed that Tuberculosis cases falling steadily since 1993. 7163 cases were reported in 2020, lower than the 8902 cases reported during 2019. 

The Worldwide Menace Of The Deceptive Killer Tuberculosis

      There is speculation that Covid-19 mitigation efforts and restricted travel have indirectly contributed towards lowering infection. But the fact remains that progress towards TB elimination has slowed down as the Covid 19 pandemic has strained Public Health services. This has impacted efforts towards TB prevention. Meanwhile, the CDC is conducting further studies to probe the impact of Covid 19 on TB case reporting. 

The Worldwide Menace Of The Deceptive Killer Tuberculosis

        The CDC encourages health workers to consider TB when testing and examining patients with symptoms consistent with TB, particularly when SARS Cov-2 results are negative. CDC recommends people with symptoms such as fever, weight loss, cough and night sweat should seek medical assistance. 

       TB is still a life threatening disease in the United States. 

       Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by a bacterium known as Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. This bacteria normally attacks the lungs but can also attack different body parts such as the Kidneys, spine, and brain. There are instances where a TB-infected person may not show any outward symptoms. As a result,  two TB-related conditions are known to exist: latent TB infection and TB disease. 

         If not detected early and treated, TB can be fatal. TB bacteria are spread through the air but do not spread by physical touch or close contact. TB bacteria in the lungs and throat can be infectious but bacteria in the kidney or brain are not contagious. 

        Worldwide, the scenario is grim. In 2018, 1.7 billion people were infected by Tuberculosis. This is almost 23% of the world’s population.  Data from the CDC further reveals that this disease killed 1.5 million people in 2018 and that 10 million people worldwide became ill with TB. 3 million out of these ten million were missed by health systems and did not get the early treatment required. 

         Studies by the CDC have further revealed that TB gradually develops a resistance to certain drugs. This happens when patients do not complete their full course of medication and also due to wrong prescription of drugs. Multidrug resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a rare type of TB that is resistant to the most common drugs Isoniazid and Rifampin. XDR -TB is of special risk to persons infected with HIV or other diseases that weaken the body’s immune system. 

         Recognizing this potential hazard, the United Nations General Assembly held the first high-level meeting on TB back in September 2018 and committed to providing Preventive treatment (TPT) to 30 million people by 2022. The U.S. Global AIDS coordinator announced a goal to provide TPT to 13.6 million ART  (Antiretrovial Therapy) patients supported by PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) by 2021.

          The CDC announced many initiatives taken up by them on World Tuberculosis Day 25 March 2021.  These include developing innovative approaches in finding and treating 4 million people that are untreated or given wrong treatment. Another initiative listed by the CDC includes strengthening both labs and surveillance systems to allow fast detection and treatment of TB cases.    

           The CDC has also mentioned the need for shoring up steps for TB prevention and infection control efforts around the world and also taking special care of HIV patients as their weekend immune systems make them more prone to getting infected by TB. 

     Tuberculosis is a deceptively silent killer as studies into the drug resistant type and the latent variant have shown. The CDC has done well to announce several initiatives to combat this disease. Time will tell how far these steps will succeed in reducing tuberculosis not just within the United States but also around the world.

      The lessons and the exposure revealed by the ongoing Covid- 19 pandemic need to be heeded and due attention  given to other major diseases as well. 

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