Thursday, March 24, 2011

World TB Day (March 24th, 2011)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a preventable and treatable disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB is spread by person-to-person contact via droplets from the lungs and throat of people with active respiratory TB disease.

Two billion people, fully one-third of humanity, are infected with latent TB. While healthy immune systems are often able to contain the bacteria, people with latent TB remain susceptible to developing active TB disease, with symptoms including productive coughing, chills, night sweats, fever, easy fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Each year there are 9.4 million new case of active TB cases, resulting in 1 million deaths.

TB closely follows social gradients in income, housing, and other social determinants of health. It is at once a completely curable disease, and a leading cause of death worldwide. While effective antibiotic treatment has existed for over 50 years, poor and inconsistent access to care has facilitated the rise of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). TB and MDR-TB remain preventable and treatable.

Preventing and treating TB involves the practice of social medicine, and a commitment to pragmatic solidarity - "a commitment to struggle alongside the destitute sick and against the economic and political structures that cause and perpetuate poverty and ill health" (PIH 2003).