9 million new TB cases are diagnosed around the world every year
Some 1.5 million people worldwide die from tuberculosis (TB) every year. Nearly 8,000 cases of TB were diagnosed in the UK in 2013. In 2012 TB caused or contributed to the deaths of 140 people.
World TB Day is held every year on 24 March with a view to mobilising political and social effort toward eliminating the burden of TB on public health.
The main thrust of this year’s World TB Day is for governments to identify, treat and cure TB which infects more than 2 billion people, one third of the world’s population. Of these, 1 in 10 will go on to develop TB in their lifetimes.
Many people infected with TB will not be diagnosed or treated and will continue to infect others.
While TB often affects vulnerable people including the very poor and malnourished, people whose immunity is compromised, migrants, refugees,miners, drug users and homeless people.
TB can also affect people who do not fit into these categories, but whose symptoms are missed by health professionals.
The 46 year old woman visited two GPs in London over a period on 18 months with symptoms that included weight loss, breathing problems, and lack of appetite.
It was not until she was admitted to hospital that she was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Public Health England says in the introduction to its publication Tuberculosis in the UK 2014 that TB rates in the UK remain unacceptably high in comparison with comparable countries.
World TB Day serves as a reminder to governments that they must provide a sustained investment in funding to help identify and treat people with TB.
It is also a useful reminder to health professionals in the UK, including GPs and hospital doctors, that they must always be aware that TB could be a possibility when patients present with the classic symptoms of the disease.
Undiagnosed TB can prove fatal for the person who contracts it, and also presents a public health risk through the possible infection of friends and family who have come into contact with that person.
“TB is a pervasive and wide-spread disease that can affect young and old. It is essential that medical staff know how to recognise the symptoms of TB and act quickly to treat the person affected and prevent wider infection in the community.”