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World TB Day – March 24th

March 24th, 2017

Today is World TB day

In 2015, there were 1.8 million TB-related deaths worldwide. TB or Tuberculosis is due to a bacteria that is generally coughed from person to person. One third of the world’s population is infected with TB – most are not sick but have whats called latent TB. In 2015, 10.4 million people around the world became sick with TB disease. TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV infected.

World TB day commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.

At that time about 7 million persons died every year from TB.  It has been estimated that in the two centuries from 1700 to 1900, tuberculosis was responsible for the deaths of approximately one billion (one thousand million) human beings.

Koch’s lecture began by reminding the audience of terrifying statistics: “If the importance of a disease for mankind is measured by the number of fatalities it causes, then tuberculosis must be considered much more important than those most feared infectious diseases, plague, cholera and the like. One in seven of all human beings dies from tuberculosis. If one only considers the productive middle-age groups, tuberculosis carries away one-third, and often more. 

It took a long time to find drugs that would cure TB, and even now we struggle to treat all TB germs as some have evolved to be resistant to our best TB antibiotics.

In “celebration” of world TB, my staff and I have just vaccinated some very cute little children heading off to high risk destinations to visit family and friends: China, Pakistan, Vietnam, India, Solomon Islands etc.

The Australian registered TB vaccine has not been available for some time so we (and many health departments in Australia) use a vaccine that is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII). SII vaccines are accredited by the World Health Organization, Geneva and are being used in around 140 countries across the planet in their national immunization programs.

Risks for Staff travelling to TB areas

Whilst we do give TB vaccine to health care workers (eg those who will be working in TB wards in hospitals etc), the vaccine is not suitable for everyone.

Staff who are posted to visit high TB risk countries are recommended to be screened before they depart, and again 3 months after return. If a worker is found to have been exposed to TB, then treatment can begin early – before symptoms develop, and before they infect family and friends.

It really pays to have a good Travel Health Policy to ensure the risk of TB in staff is properly managed.

Not sure if we are supposed to wish Happy TB day, but lets give thanks to those pioneering medical folk who have made our lives and those of our loved ones so much safer.






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