It is World Tuberculosis Day and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is again highlighting the need for more action and awareness to end the devastating health, social and economic consequences of Tuberculosis (TB).

March 24 of every year 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 this disease.

Despite this breakthrough in science, however, TB is still killing people and here are seen things you should know about the disease.

1.  Tuberculosis Is Among Top 10 Causes Of Deaths Worldwide

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. 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.

About one-quarter of the world's population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.

People infected with TB bacteria have a 5–15% lifetime risk of falling ill with TB.

However, persons with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.

One million children (0–14 years of age) fell ill with TB, and 230 000 children (including children with HIV associated TB) died from the disease in 2017.

While in 2017, 10 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.6 million died from the disease (including 0.3 million among people with HIV).

Also in 2017, an estimated one million children became ill with TB and 230 000 children died of TB (including children with HIV associated TB).

2.  Leading Killer Of HIV-positive People

Tuberculosis mostly affects adults in their most productive years. However, all age groups are at risk.

Over 95% of cases and deaths are in developing countries.

People who are infected with HIV are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop active TB (see TB and HIV section below).

The risk of active TB is also greater in persons suffering from other conditions that impair the immune system.

3.  TB Incidence Is Falling

The World Health Organisation says TB incidence is failing at about 2% per year.

“This needs to accelerate to a 4–5% annual decline to reach the 2020 milestones of the End TB Strategy,” it said.

An estimated 54 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2017.

4.  There Is A Target To End TB By 2030

The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations contained as part of the plan, an ambitious target to end TB by 2030.

5.   Symptoms May Last For Months

When a person develops active TB disease, the symptoms (such as cough, fever, night sweats, or weight loss) may be mild for many months.

This can lead to delays in seeking care, and results in transmission of the bacteria to others.

People with active TB can infect 10–15 other people through close contact over the course of a year.

Without proper treatment, 45% of HIV-negative people with TB on average and nearly all HIV-positive people with TB will die.

6.  There Is A Crisis Caused By Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB)

WHO estimates that there were 558 000 new cases in 2018, with resistance to rifampicin – the most effective first-line drug, of which - 82% had MDR-TB.

It says MDR-TB remains a public health crisis and a health security threat.

7.   TB Is A Curable Disease

TB is a treatable and curable disease.

Active, drug-susceptible TB disease is treated with a standard 6 month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.

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