World TB Day: Tuberculosis is on the rise globally
Tuberculosis (TB), after COVID-19, is the second deadliest infectious killer in the world. Each year the Institute for Respiratory Health commemorates World TB Day on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating global health, social and economic consequences of TB.
The day marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing the disease.
“Many people are not aware that TB exists in Australia,” Professor Yuben Moodley from the Institute for Respiratory Health said. “But even in Australia we have about 1,300 cases annually.
“Basically it’s become ‘endemic’. It doesn’t mean it’s disappeared from our lives, it still remains a part of our lives – it’s here to stay forever, a bit like the coronavirus currently. But through antibiotics, stronger immunity and better living conditions today the prevalence of TB has fallen across the globe.”
TB is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from coughs or sneezes of an infected person.
It mainly affects the lungs but it can affect any part of the body, including the tummy, glands, bones and nervous system.
TB can be fatal but it can be cured if it’s treated with the right antibiotics.
“What’s concerning is that we are seeing an increase in TB deaths across the globe. According to the World Health Organization deaths increased from 1,5 million in 2020 to 1.6 million in 2021,” said Professor Yuben Moodley.
“And about 10.6 million people got affected by TB in 2021, a 4.5% increase from 2020.
“Key factors that have contributed to this outcome include COVID-19, the war in Eastern Europe, a decrease in global spending and drug-resistant TB. Vulnerable communities are impacted the most.
“With the drug-resistant TB ongoing research, innovation and funding is vital to detect drug-resistance and to increase access to better and more effective treatments.”
Although contagious, TB is difficult to catch, you need to spend many hours in close contact with someone to become infectious.
People most at risk of developing TB generally have an immune system that isn’t working well. Excessive alcohol and drug use and smoking are also risk factors for developing TB.
The most common symptoms of TB are a persistent cough for more than three weeks, unexplained weight loss, fever and night sweats. If you have any of these symptoms it doesn’t mean you have TB but you should book an appoint with your doctor.