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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

World TB Day Set for March 24

Published March 3, 2010 3:03 PM by Vern Enge
"On the Move Against Tuberculosis: Innovate to Accelerate Action" is the theme for this year's World Tuberculosis Day set for Wednesday, March 24.

Realistically, however, how innovative do Americans need to be today when it comes to battling tuberculosis? After all, hasn't that disease been all but eradicated in the 21st century? Who even get that disease today?

Things have changed a lot over the past 100 years. A century ago, TB was the leading cause of death in the U.S. and was often called consumption, phthisis, scrofula, Pott's disease, or the white plague.

Before an effective antibiotic treatment became available in 1952, TB was everywhere, and many people with the disease were isolated in sanitariums. The therapy du jour was relatively simple: provide good food and lots if fresh air and promote inactivity.

That's not all. To attract new residents, many communities opened campaigns to extol the virtues of clean mountain or desert air. By 1900, a quarter of the migrants to California and a third of those who moved to Colorado made the trip for health reasons.

Towns like Pasadena, Calif.; Colorado Springs and Denver; Tucson, Ariz.; El Paso, Texas; and Albuquerque, N.M., were settled in large numbers by TB patients and their families. Among the propaganda was this promotional piece: "The fact that Albuquerque is practically made up of people who have either regained their health here or have come with others who have accounts for the unique tone of the city, its air of cheerfulness and of easy living, and its inspiring example for new arrivals," according to an article by Katharine Garstka printed last year.

But don't be confused. TB has not disappeared. A third of the world's populations is infected with TB today, and one in 10 will become sick with active TB, according to WHO data. Some 8.8 million contract TB each year, and nearly 2 million people still die from the disease annually.

In fact, we do face a bigger threat from TB today than did our ancestors. New forms of TB are evolving including multidrug-resistant TB and medically resistant TB, a highly contagious, aggressive form of TB.

TB spreads silently. One infected individual can infect 10 to 12 others prior to diagnosis. "We are all connected by the air we breathe, and that is why TB must be everyone's problem," said Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Respiratory care departments need to take a strong lead in TB awareness in their respective facilities. Contrary to popular belief, TB can strike anyone anywhere.

Let ADVANCE know if your department comes up with a unique program to spread the world about the dangers of TB.

posted by Vern Enge
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