Reports have indicated that doctors in the US U.S. doctors often misdiagnose tuberculosis due to the rarity of the condition, leaving some patients to suffer for years.
Tuberculosis is among the most common infectious diseases in the world, and according to the World Health Organization, has taken the lives of around 1.7 million in the year 2004. A tuberculosis bacterium has the ability to remain dormant for years, and then can begin multiplying, especially when the host's immune system is weakened. The disease can be treated if the condition is diagnosed early, but if diagnosis is delayed, it could cause permanently harm or even lead to the death of its victims and could also spread to others.
It was explained that though this condition is relatively rare in the US, it does remains as a large threat, particularly in states like as California, which has a large numbers of immigrants from countries where the disease is endemic. Reports have indicated that last year alone, around 2,903 of the 14,093 cases in the U.S. were reported from California itself, and more than three-quarters of them were among foreign natives.
Dr. Kenneth Castro, the director of the division of tuberculosis elimination at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, "Delayed diagnosis is a concern that obsesses people in TB control. There are many outstanding physicians who don't see it anymore and therefore lose proficiency to promptly diagnose and treat it." It was explained that even though the government officials do not track how often TB is misdiagnosed, certain researches and high-profile cases have encouraged many an experts concerns.
It was reported that in a study that was published last year in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, of 158 patients in Maryland, showed 45% to be undiagnosed 30 days after they first contacted a doctor, with 16% undiagnosed after 90 days after.
It has been reported that the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are now taking steps to educate doctors on how to spot the early signs of the disease. It has been reported that the CDC has sponsored four national centres for doctors to call requesting diagnostic help for a suspected case of TB, and that the California Department of Health Services is also participating in a national study of delays in diagnosis of foreign-born TB patients.
These growing concerns for the lack of skills for identification and knowledge of the condition have triggered certain health agencies to act in this respect. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have been helping to fund a TB curriculum in medical and professional schools.