It’s World Tuberculosis Day: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About TB

Health & Fitness

0  Updated at 7:49 am, March 24th, 2013 By: ABC Digital
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Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The lung disease Tuberculosis kills nearly 1.5 million people each year, mostly in developing countries. World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24 to “raise awareness about the burden of tuberculosis (TB) worldwide and the status of TB prevention and control efforts,” according to the World Health Organization. With that in mind, here are five things you might not have known about this deadly disease.

1.    Tuberculosis Is Caused by Bacteria and Spread Through the Air

According to the World Health Organization, “when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.”

The symptoms include fever, bloody cough and fatigue.

2.    Tuberculosis Is Growing More Resistant to Treatment Worldwide

Although TB is curable, the treatment regimen requires patients dutifully to take multiple antibiotics daily for several months, and if there are any deviations from protocol or incomplete courses, the bacteria can easily develop a resistance to the drugs.

The WHO estimates that about 5 percent of the cases of this disease are multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Known as MDR-TB, these bacteria have developed resistance to two of the first-line tuberculosis drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin. An even more resistant strain of TB exists.  XDR-TB was first reported in 2006 and are resistant to several types of drugs. While MDR-TB is difficult and costly to treat, XDR-TB is even harder.

3.    Tuberculosis Is Global Threat

Tuberculosis kills at least 1.34 million people each year worldwide. And now the disease, once curable with antibiotics, is becoming resistant to multiple drugs.

Although most cases of TB and multidrug-resistant TB are found in developing countries, the disease, which kills at least 1.34 million people worldwide each year has been found in developed country as well. According to WHO data, 92 cases of multidrug-resistant TB were reported in the United States in 2011.

4.    People With Weak Immune Systems Are More Susceptible to Getting TB

People with weak immune systems or those who have HIV are at greater risk in contracting TB. It is the leading killer of people with HIV, according to WHO. Additionally, according to the WHO, smoking and tobacco use make people more susceptible to TB, and their data says that more than 20 percent of TB cases globally are attributable to smoking.

5.    Drug-Resistant TB Could Bring Back Sanatoria, Secluded Hospitals

Before the advent of antibiotics, people with infectious diseases like tuberculosis were sent to sanatoria, secluded hospitals that healed through good food, fresh air and sunlight. The isolated buildings also quarantined infected patients, thwarting the spread of contagious and dangerous diseases. Before the advent of the drug rifampicin in the 1960’s, some sanatoria housed several thousand patients at once.

Now, in regions of the world increasingly burdened by drug-resistant TB, sanatoria might be coming back. But the recent emergence of new, antibiotic-resistant strains of the disease-causing bacteria in South Africa has prompted a call for the return of sanitoria.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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