World Tuberculosis Day - It''s Time for Action

World Tuberculosis Day - It's Time for Action

by Ishwarya Thyagarajan on Mar 23 2019 5:31 PM
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  • World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24th every year to raise awareness about the disease
  • The theme this year is ‘It’s Time’ with emphasis on acting on commitments made so far to eradicate TB
  • Universal access, sufficient resources, ending discrimination and stigma, equitable TB response system are themes stressed upon
Tuberculosis (TB) continues to remain the most infectious diseases worldwide and one among the top 10 causes of death. The 24th of March every year is observed as World Tuberculosis Day to raise public awareness about the disease. The day commemorates Dr. Robert Koch’s announcement in 1882 of his discovery of the TB-causing bacteria.


World Tuberculosis Day 2019 - It’s Time

For the World Tuberculosis Day this year, the WHO has adopted the theme ‘It’s Time.’
In September 2018, a High-Level Meeting, the first ever in the UN involving the Heads of State was called for. The leaders came together and made strong commitments to end TB.

The emphasis this year is to act on the commitments that were made by the global leaders in 2018. These include:
  • Scaling access to prevention and treatment
  • Building accountability
  • Ensuring sufficient and sustainable resources for including research as well
  • Ending stigma and discrimination
  • Promoting a TB response that is equitable, rights-based and people-centered
The WHO has also launched a joint initiative - “Find. Treat. All. #EndTB” along with the Global Fund and Stop TB Partnership. The initiative aims at accelerating TB response and ensuring access to care.

Earlier in 2015, WHO developed the End TB Strategy which identified TB as a development challenge and opportunity, and not just a public health issue. The strategy aims at eradicating TB, reducing TB deaths by 95 percent and cutting down the new TB cases by 90 percent between 2015 and 2035.


Tuberculosis - The Disease

Tuberculosis, caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis is an air-borne infection. This rod-shaped bacterium also known as Koch’s bacillus may affect a person breathing the air contaminated by it. As transmitted through air, it may affect anyone and symptoms include chronic cough, weight loss, fatigue, fever and night sweats. If left untreated, the infection could spread to other parts of the body and may turn fatal.

The bacteria after being inhaled may either be destroyed, or survive and cause TB, or may remain dormant without infecting. The latter is referred to as the latent TB infection.

Most people with latent TB do not get sick and do not transmit the infection. But some people may eventually contract the disease. Therefore it is very important to treat the latent infection. It is estimated that more than one-third of the population is living with latent infection and 2 to 23 percent of this may develop active TB.


Treating Tuberculosis

TB is responsible for 1.6 million deaths worldwide in 2017 alone and remains the leading infectious killer.

People with a weak immune system and those with HIV infection, cancer, diabetes, malnourishment and taking immunosuppressants are at a higher risk of developing TB. Diagnosis of TB is done through a chest x-ray skin test, sputum microscopy, culture test and Genexpert test.

Treatment for TB is administered in 2 phases: the initial intensive phase and the continuation phase. TB medications are always a combination of drugs and should be taken at least for a period of six months. It is also important to identify the drugs patients have become resistant to, and prescribe appropriate ones. It is very important to follow-up that patients do not drop out of treatment at any point.

As of 2017, 558 000 people were found resistant to Rifampicin, the most effective drug in TB treatment and of this 82 percent was found to have Multidrug-resistant Tuberculosis.

Like any other disease, prevention and early detection is the key to eliminating tuberculosis. Patients affected with TB should be treated diligently and steps must be taken to prevent transmission of the infection from these patients. As a first step, it is essential to ensure that the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine is administered in order to protect against forms of pediatric TB.

This year, WHO calls for the governments, affected communities, civil society organizations, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders to unite in a fight against TB.

“It’s time for action! It’s time to End TB.”

  1. World Tuberculosis Day 2019 - (