Wednesday, March 24, 2010

World Tuberculosis Day 2010

Tuberculosis, or TB for short is not something most people will think about today. But we should, which is why public health advocate Karen Goraleski is guest posting today to give us a little history about TB.


More than 125 years after the discovery of the cause of TB we are still fighting this ancient killer. Even more incredible, we are using drugs and treatments developed nearly a half-century ago. The major burden of TB is found in developing countries, where 98% of TB deaths occur. In addition to killing people, it wields a double hit by draining $12 billion annually from the world’s poorest communities, where families caring for a loved one with TB spend eight to 20% of their income on treatment. Businesses and local economies must also cope with the absence of employees with TB, who will lose three to four months of work on average.

We don’t think about TB here in the U.S., but we need to. In the 1980s and under a false sense of security, America relaxed its monitoring of TB. As a result, TB returned with a vengeance in the 1990s. Flash forward another ten plus years to 2007 and we have more than 13,000 TB cases reported.

An increased investment in research to develop new tools to diagnose and treat TB is essential to prevent the needless suffering caused by TB and its often fatal drug resistant strains. Without this, TB can quickly overpower the current inadequate response to this long-standing but beatable disease.

In this world where disease is just a plane ride away for all of us, where business and commerce are expanding globally, where students and youth groups routinely travel to distant places, it is critical for the U.S. to invest in global health research to develop better prevention and treatment for TB, and to find a definitive cure.

Karen Goraleski is the vice president of public health partnerships at Research!America.

For more on tuberculosis, check out this fact sheet.

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