Tuberculosis or TB, the once dreaded disease, which sent millions of people into early graves and devastated many communities, was so powerful that it changed the history of many countries. This disease was so widespread that each country and region had a specific name for it. Fight against this enigmatic disease was possible due to the efforts of the great scientist Koch, who in 1882 discovered the bacillus that causes Tuberculosis and the discovery of drug streptomycin that could cure it.
TB began to decline in 1850 in the USA and by 1870 most of the Europe started to see decline in the cases of TB. By 1950, this dreaded disease seemed to be eradicated from most of the developed countries due to the emergence of effective therapeutic drugs. And when we thought we were able to conquer this beast of a disease, it remerged in newer forms like Drug-resistant, Multidrug-resistant and Extreme drug-resistant TB, once again posing a serious threat to humanity.
Thriving in every underprivileged nook and corner, Tuberculosis is considered as one of the most deadliest diseases. It is a highly contagious infection, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which mostly affects the lungs. Causing some mild unnoticeable symptoms of cough and weight loss, TB is usually diagnosed at a very late stage, reducing the chances of survival.
This bacterium has some unique features that make it so infectious and deadly. One such feature is the ability of bacteria to stay dormant in a person for years (medically known as Latent TB), until the immunity drops considerably. This explains its more common occurrence in immuno-compromised conditions like HIV, diabetes and malnourishment. Another horrid feature of the disease is its air-borne mode of transmission, wherein droplets from an infected individual’s cough or sneeze can infect healthy individuals. This validates why TB and epidemic go hand-in-hand.
Responding to this global threat, 24th March of every year is devoted to spread awareness about this disease and to move a step ahead to eradicate it completely. This day is globally known as “World TB Day”.
Why 24th March?
To answer this, lets trace back the history of TB.You may think of it to be a 21st century disease. Well, you will be startled to know that this infection dates back to a very ancient era, as old as that of Egyptian mummies. Known by the name of “consumption”, “phthisis”, “scrofula”, “white plague” and “romantic disease”, it has annihilated several communities and civilizations in the past.
With such great global impact, came a huge burden on our researchers to decipher the cause of illness. After several failed attempts, one of the ardent scientist, Robert Koch, isolated the TB bacteria and presented its infective nature in Physiological Society of Berlin, on 24th March 1882. Since then, this day is celebrated as “World TB Day”, commemorating his outstanding contribution, which was a door-opener to many advances in this domain.
While you may think of our medical advancement to have reached an appreciable state, it hasn’t. WHO statistics on the disease is an evidence of how neglected TB has been and still is. 2016 report showed 10.4 million people falling ill from TB and 1.7 million people losing their lives to the illness. The estimate suggests TB to be the leading cause of death in HIV patients, killing 0.4 million HIV patients in 2016.
Majority of TB cases are seen in hard-to-reach areas of the community, with poor sanitation, overcrowding and less health- care accessibility.
Theme for World TB Day 2018- “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free World”
Addressing the outbreak of TB worldwide, several control programmes have emerged. From coming up with DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment; Short-course) in 1993 and Stop-TB strategy in 2011 to formulating End-TB strategy in 2014, WHO and UN have paid significant heed to the issue.
Certain first line drugs and second-line drugs came into existence to curb the illness. These initiatives have markedly declined the death rate of TB patients. However, the bacteria evolved with time, giving rise to resistant strains of bacteria, which are still causing several deaths worldwide.
Keeping in view the dreadful scenario of TB, this year’s theme, i.e., “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world”, calls for an active involvement of each and every individual of the society in the fight against the illness. When the disease is encroaching everyone from common people to elite classes, why not stand united against the disease.
Until now, World TB Day had a more political involvement. But, let’s ask ourselves this year, have we gotten anywhere close to complete eradication of the disease? No, definitely not.
This year’s theme aims to change the outlook of everyone towards this disease. Eliminating the disease from its root requires an active participation from not just the Ministers of Health, Heads of the State, Governors, Mayors and Parliamentarians, but also from NGOs, Health workers, Doctors, Nurses and even people affected from TB.
While this year’s theme outshines among several initiatives against TB, let me give you another reason to believe that soon it will come to an end. In November, a conference was held in Moscow, which included ministers from 120 countries, who committed to accelerate in the direction of ending TB.
You may wonder, what importance does this conference bear? Well, this large-scale initiative influenced all the political leaders worldwide. This will be reflected in a UN General assembly, to be held in September in New York, which will have involvement of all the Heads of State. This is the first-ever global meeting, where our united leaders will commit to not just prevent TB but to ensure that every person facing the plight of the illness receives appropriate care.
You will agree when I say that TB has consistently been an indicator of the weals and woes of our society. It’s time to wage a war against this illness, with our weapons being keeping the premises clean, not neglecting any sign of the illness, seeking medical help in case of suspicion, adhering to the treatment regimen and collaborating with the government to curb this illness. Let each one of us be a leader to reach, treat and cure everyone.