World TB Day: Facts You May Not Know About Tuberculosis (TB)
by Carolynn Waites
Mar 27, 2014
You Can Help Eliminate Tuberculosis by Educating Yourself and Others About TB
March 24 is the annual observation of World TB Day. It honors the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TB usually affects the lungs and spreads through the air from one person to another. If not treated, it can be fatal. World TB Day provides the opportunity for health officials to raise awareness about tuberculosis. The goal is to eliminate TB. One way to accomplish this goal is through education about the disease.
TB is a Leading Cause of Death
In 2012, 1.3 million people died from TB. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that tuberculosis is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. TB is a leading killer of people living with HIV, causing one-fifth of all deaths. Those with HIV are 30 times more likely to develop TB. In 2012, there were an estimated 1.1 million new TB cases among the HIV positive globally.
TB Bacteria May Remain Latent for Years
Most people infected with TB harbor the bacteria without symptoms. This is latent TB. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in 10 people with latent TB may develop active TB during their lifetime. The risk is highest the first year after infection, but it often does not occur for many years. Those infected with latent TB do not get sick or infect others. The CDC states that TB spreads through the air by coughing, sneezing, speaking, or singing. It does not spread through sharing food or drink, kissing, shaking hands, toilet seats, or sharing toothbrushes
TB Affects Other Parts of the Body
TB typically affects lungs, but it can spread to other parts of the body. The Mayo Clinic states that infections can occur in bones, the brain, liver, kidneys, and the heart. Bone infections usually occur in the ribs and can cause pain in the spine. TB in the brain can cause meningitis, a swelling of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord that can be fatal. If the liver and kidneys are infected, their ability to filter waste from the bloodstream is impaired. TB in the heart causes a condition called cardiac tamponade, which can be fatal. It causes the tissues around the heart to swell with fluid and interferes with its ability to pump well.
TB Traces Back Thousands of Years
There is evidence of TB in some ancient Egyptian mummies and it was common in ancient Greece and Imperial Rome. According to the NIH, it became an epidemic during the 18th and 19th centuries in North America and Europe. The disease began to subside in the late 19th century as treatment arose. Sanitariums provided rest and recovery for patients with TB. This helped slow the spread of the disease. Vaccination was widely used after World War I. The modern era of treatment began in the 1940s and 1950s with the development of new drugs to combat TB.