World Tuberculosis Day is observed annually on March 24 to raise awareness about tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to end the global epidemic, marking the day in 1882 when the bacterium causing TB was discovered. The theme for 2023: Yes! We can end TB!
Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s top infectious killers, causing 1,6 million deaths each year and affecting millions more, with enormous impacts on families and communities. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with ongoing crises such as armed conflict, food insecurity, climate change, political and economic instability, has reversed years of progress made in the fight against TB. Last year, for the first time in nearly two decades, WHO reported an increase in the number of people falling ill with TB and drug resistant TB, alongside an increase in deaths.
Statistically, on an international level: 74 million lives saved since 2000 by global efforts to end TB 10,6 million people fell ill with TB in 2021 1.6 million people died of TB in 2021
In 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that around 56 000 deaths occurred in South Africa due to TB, a figure not dissimilar to the official number of COVID-related deaths in the same year. In 2018, 10 million people fell ill with TB and 1,5 million died from the disease, mostly in low and middle-income countries. This also makes it the leading cause of death from an infectious disease.
Ending TB requires concerted action by all sectors WHO stated, “To provide the right services, support and enabling safe environment in the right place, at the right time. TB is mainly concentrated in settings beset by poverty and other social and economic challenges and in the most vulnerable populations. Poverty, undernourishment, poor living and working conditions, among others, affect how people fall ill, develop TB and cope with the demands of treatment (including medical, financial and social) and influence the health outcomes they face. Thus, progress in combating TB and its drivers cannot be achieved by the health system alone and requires firm political commitment at the highest level, strong multi-sectoral collaboration (beyond health) and an effective accountability system.”
During the COVID pandemic, we lost our cleaner and domestic worker of many years to TB. Doctors kept testing for COVID, which showed negative each time. After collapsing and taken to hospital via ambulance, she tested positive for TB. Unfortunately, her family demanded that she went to her home, where she died a few months later.
We need to be aware of TB and discuss it with our communities, preventing this disease from spreading.
Quote of the week “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
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