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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Up Close and Personal with Tuberculosis

Published March 24, 2010 2:56 PM by Vern Enge

I always thought tuberculosis was one of those exotic diseases tromping at will primarily through foreign countries in Africa, the Far East, or the Caribbean. It was a disease of the impoverished, characterized by ill people who hacked relentlessly and spit up blood.

In short, TB was something that other people elsewhere contracted. It could not impact my world in any way, shape, or form.

At least that's what I thought...until Thanksgiving Day when I landed in a local emergency department because I was running an elevated fever. ER staff wrestled vials of blood from my veins and eventually reported I had some type of non-defined bacterial infection and would require the use of some heavy doses of antibiotics. The infection still remained an unknown when I was sent on my way.

Eventually the truth came out. I had picked up one of the many strains of TB spreading through the universe and could expect to have a close, personal relationship with my friendly neighborhood infectious disease expert for at least six months.

As we look at the World TB Day 2010 message that TB is never far away, we need to search out projects to spread this year's theme "TB Elimination: Together We Can!"

Controlling TB and offshoots like drug-resistant TB and the more lethal very drug-resistant TB require non-stop surveillance, new diagnostic tools, and new treatments.

After all, TB remains the second largest infectious disease killer in the world. The U.S. alone has earmarked billions of dollars for USAID and CDC global eradication programs over the next five years.

You can help the effort starting on World TB Day on March 24 by:

  • Finding out more about TB services in your area
  • Educating your community about TB
  • Ensuring that efforts to eliminate TB continue

One often overlooked fact in the war against TB is that the American Thoracic Society, originally founded as the American Sanatorium Association, is a leader in domestic and global TB control.

One year ago I would have viewed TB as only a distant threat. Today, I can see what happens when it strikes up close and personal, far too close for my comfort zone.

I can attest to the fact it can rear its insidious head anywhere at any time, and we all run a risk of contracting it, even those of us who naively believe we live in a protected environment.

posted by Vern Enge


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