TB and Me

Tuberculosis is a disease that I have always found fascinating. It is one of the oldest document diseases. There is evidence of it in animals almost 20,000 years ago. They had it in ancient Egypt, Rome, and pretty much throughout the whole world at some point or another. Historically it has been called different names, but its characteristics are usually identifiable in written history. It was believe to be linked with vampirism, because of the pale appearance and coughing blood. Growing up I only knew about it in passing conversation and in novels. I thought it was a disease like small pox that had been eradicated. It wasn’t until middle school or high school even when I discovered just how prevalent it still is. In college I had to have the PPD test for TB, which is basically a skin test to see if you have been exposed to it. A positive result doesn’t mean you have it, just that you have been exposed, usually it is followed up with a chest x-ray. I actually have a TB skin test for pharmacy school next week. Like most hospitals, you can’t work at Temple without the test.

TB rarely gets the attention it deserves in our world. I think that is because the subset of the population it generally affects is not the upper class. Most middle and upper class Americans will never get TB, unless an outbreak occurred in a retirement home or somewhere like that. Because poor communities and immigrant communities are more often in smaller living spaces with more people around, they naturally are more susceptible. According to Wikipedia the following communities are most likely to be exposed: “include people in areas where TB is common, people who inject illicit drugs (especially when sharing needles), residents and employees of high-risk congregate settings, medically under-served and low-income populations, high-risk racial or ethnic minority populations, children exposed to adults in high-risk categories, patients immunocompromised by conditions such as HIV/AIDS, people who take immunosuppressant drugs, and health care workers serving these high-risk clients. It is so insane to me that a treatable and generally preventable disease still claims so many lives. More shocking is that inadequate control programs have led to a resurgence of the disease in recent years. Now there is also the added concern of drug resistant TB which has evolved over last 20 years. But there is always hope, the global initiative “Stop TB Partnership” is setting ambitious goals and is dedicated to ridding the world of TB.

Anna Cataldi, who served as UN Messenger of Peace from 1998 to 2007, has joined the global fight against tuberculosis (TB). Ms Cataldi, who was appointed as an Ambassador of the Stop TB Partnership, will raise awareness worldwide about the unfair burden of TB on refugees, migrants, people living in poverty and other disadvantaged groups. The Stop TB Partnership’s goal is to eliminate TB as a public health problem worldwide. In 2005 there were 8.8 million new cases of TB. The disease kills 4400 people every day, even though it has been treatable and preventable for more than half a century. “Anna Cataldi has an extraordinary track record of galvanizing people to confront issues that cause human suffering,” said Dr Marcos Espinal, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. “She will be a strong voice calling for access to TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment as a human right.” The Stop TB Partnership has set out an ambitious plan: The Global Plan to Stop TB (2006-2015). Launched by the Stop TB Partnership in January 2006, the plan is a roadmap for treating 50 million people for TB between now and 2015 and save about 14 million lives. It aims to halve TB prevalence and deaths compared with 1990 levels by 2015.

TB Article

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2 Responses to TB and Me

  1. Darmok says:

    I’m the same way as you—until medical school, I had no idea how big of a problem tuberculosis still was. It seemed to be in the same category as the bubonic plague and such.

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