15 facts you need to know now about Tuberculosis

A child wearing a mask to prevent TB infection in a clinic. AFP
A child wearing a mask to prevent TB infection in a clinic. AFP

This year World Tuberculosis Day, celebrated on 24 March, aims to reach all those who are not receiving the proper treatment and care, and to attain the goal of ZERO TB deaths worldwide with its theme: "‘A TB test, treatment and cure for all’." 

The event annually marks the day in 1882 when Doctor Robert Koch detected the cause of TB – creating the first steps towards the successful diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Once known as the "white plague" for its ability to render its victims skinny, pale and feverish, TB causes night sweats, persistent coughing, weight loss and blood in the phlegm or spit. It is spread through close contact with infected people.

SANTA (South African National Tuberculosis Associaton) says that South Africa has one of the most serious TB epidemics in the world. A major TB epidemic in the pre HIV era has been followed by a rising number of TB cases as a result of HIV and TB co-infection.

Additionally, multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases increasing in South Africa.

The current state of Tuberculosis infections:

1.      In 2013, nearly nine million people contracted TB around the world 

2.      In 2013 around 1.5 million TB-related deaths occurred worldwide

3.     TB is the leading killer of HIV-infected people. In South Africa, 73% of TB patients are HIV positive

4.     In South Africa alone, there was an estimated 500 000 cases of active TB in 2011, the highest stats after India and China

5.     TB is the leading cause of death in SA (40 000 - 60 000 deaths a year)), a figure which is slowly decreasing as several interventions are being put in place to tackle the disease.

6.      There are two types of TB – latent and active. People with latent TB are not contagious and often show none of the symptoms associated with TB, whereas people with active TB are contagious and may have many of the TB symptoms

7.      Across the world 1 in 3 people is infected with latent TB. In South Africa 80% of the population is infected with latent TB and the majority of these people are in the age group 30-39 years old living in townships and informal settlements.

8.     480 000 people developed multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the world in 2013.  In 2012, South Africa reported 14,161 laboratory-confirmed cumulative cases of MDR-TB and 701 laboratory-confirmed cumulative cases of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) cases. 

9.    For the past six years, an estimated three million people are missed every year by the health systems in their country

10.  People ill with TB can infect up to 10-15 other people through close contact over the course of a year.

11.   The estimated number of people falling ill with TB each year is declining, although very slowly, which means that the world is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to reverse the spread of TB by 2015.

12.   The global TB death rate dropped 45% between 1990 and 2013.

13.   An estimated 37 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2013.

14.   South Africa is one of the three countries (together with India and Ukraine) with the largest increases in multidrug-resistant (MDR-TB) between 2011 and 2012

15.   People infected with TB bacteria have a lifetime risk of falling ill with TB of 10%.

Watch: News Live talks to Jenny Hughes of Doctors Without Borders about TB and MDR TB in South Africa



Fact sources: WHO, SANTA, TBFacts, Health24

Read more:

Why you need to open the windows when using public transport

Who gets TB?

Exciting new MDR-TB drug to be trialled in SA

Smoker? Diabetic? Beware TB

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