(First of a series)
Today is World TB Day but there’s no reason to celebrate because of the grim figures.
Every day, 63 Filipinos die from tuberculosis. Over 700 people get TB daily but only 632 seek treatment. And not all of these patients finish their sixmonth treatment.
Tuberculosis remains a major health problem despite government efforts to curb the disease, according to the Department of Health. A patient with TB can infect 10 to 15 people a year. The usual victims are adults but children can also be affected. This is tragic considering that TB is preventable and curable.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said TB is the sixth leading cause of death and illness in the country, killing 28,000 yearly. In 2011, there were 260,000 cases.
It named the Philippines as one of the four countries that account for 93 percent of TB cases in the Western Pacific region.
Worldwide, 8.6 million people developed TB in 2012 and 1.3 million died from the disease. TB is second to HIV/AIDS in terms of the number of people it has killed and it is the leading cause of death of people with HIV. Compounding the problem is the presence of multidrug resistant TB (MDRTB) that affects thousands of people all over the world.
While TB is found everywhere, the WHO said Asia is home to the largest number of new TB cases with 60 percent of new cases in 2012. The Philippines ranks ninth out of 22 countries with the highest number of TB cases and is one of the countries with the highest burden of MDRTB.
Over 95 percent of TB deaths occur in low and middleincome countries, and the usual victims are women aged 15 to 44. Other highrisk groups are the young and old, smokers and people with weakened immune systems due to HIV, malnutrition, cancer, kidney disease and diabetes. Excessive drug and alcohol use can also make a person susceptible to TB.
While TB can be found in people from all walks of life, it is common in the poor because these people don’t have adequate medical care that is needed to detect and cure TB.
TB is an abbreviation of the tubercle bacillus and has been called phthisis, phthisis pulmonalis, wasting disease, consumption, the White Plague, king’s evil, and scrofula through the years. This common disease is caused by different strains of mycobacteria, especially mycobacterium tuberculosis, that often affect the lungs.
However, TB can also affect the liver, kidneys, brain, spine, intestines, bones and joints, and the heart. The disease is spread through the air when a TB patient coughs, sneezes, spits or laughs. The main symptom of an active TB infection is a chronic cough (also called “graveyard cough”) that lasts more than two weeks. Other telltale signs are a blondtinged sputum, night sweats, chills, weight loss, fatigue, fever, chest pain and painful breathing or coughing. TB that affects other parts of the body has other symptoms depending on the affected area.
The infection is latent or inactive in the absence of symptoms and this is not contagious.
But a latent infection can become active in one out of 10 cases. Without treatment, TB kills 50 percent of those infected.
Science Daily reported that the disease was present in Europe 7,000 years ago. Muriel
Masson and his colleagues at the University of Szeged in Hungary said TB apparently caused a disease called hypertrophic pulmonary osteopathy (HPO) that was found in some human skeletons in an old archaeological site south of Hungary. Researchers said this is one of the earliest known cases of TB.
World TB Day today commemorates the date in 1882 when German doctor Robert Koch discovered the cause of TB. For his groundbreaking finding, Koch was named as the founder of modern bacteriology and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905.
(Next: Battling MDR-TB)