World Tuberculosis Day Re-Energizes After COVID-19 Pandemic
Each year, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is celebrated on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB.
The date marks when Dr. Robert Koch announced in 1882 that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease, wrote the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2022.
Previous global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 66 million lives since 2000. However, TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of progress. For the first time in over a decade, TB deaths increased in 2020. And close to 28,000 people fall ill with this vaccine-preventable and curable disease each day.
The theme of World TB Day 2022 - ‘Invest to End TB. Save Lives.’ –conveys the urgent need to invest resources to ramp up the fight against TB and achieve the commitments to end TB by 2030 made by global leaders.
Furthermore, COVID-19 disruptions to health services have impeded diagnosing and treating everyone with active tuberculosis, drug-resistant tuberculosis, multidrug-resistant or extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, latent tuberculosis, tuberculosis, and HIV co-infection.
This impedance, in turn, promotes the development of multidrug-resistant strains of tuberculosis.
Thus, ‘in the foreseeable future, tuberculosis will continue to pose multiple challenges and negatively impact already fragile health systems in countries with a high burden of tuberculosis,’ wrote healthcare providers in an editorial published by The Lancet on March 3, 2022.
To help prevent TB, the 100 years old Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine continues to be very effective. The BCG vaccination is recommended as part of the WHO’s national childhood immunization programs.
The most recent data indicate that 154 countries have a policy of BCG vaccination for the whole population, with 53 of these countries reporting coverage of at least 95%. In addition, 32 countries have reserved the BCG vaccination for specific population groups.
In the U.S., the BCG vaccine is U.S. FDA Approved but is seldom administered.
TB data from 2020 revealed a substantial decline in the number of reported cases of TB disease in the U.S., says the CDC.
- 7,174: number of reported TB cases in the U.S. in 2020
- 60 jurisdictions (states, cities, and U.S. territories) reported TB data
- Up to 13 million people in the U.S. are living with latent TB infection
The CDC says ‘BCG should be considered for only very select people who meet specific criteria and in consultation with a TB expert.’
And, ‘BCG vaccination should only be considered for children who have a negative TB test and are continually exposed, and cannot be separated from adults who are infected, and have TB disease caused by strains resistant to isoniazid and rifampin.’
‘Health care providers who are considering BCG vaccination for their patients are encouraged to discuss this intervention with the TB control program in their area.’
The WHO publishes country profiles for TB cases.
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