Commemorating World Tuberculosis Day: Let us fight against TB

Commemorating World Tuberculosis Day: Let us fight against TB

The 24th of March has been marked as the World Tuberculosis day, the theme of this year "Reach the 3 Million: Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone" – aims at securing care for the three million who fail to be treated every year. Tuberculosis (TB) is ranked as the leading killer worldwide with 1.5 million deaths each year. Tuberculosis can be spread through a simple cough or sneeze. According to World Health Organisation one-third of the world's population is infected with the bacteria that cause TB.

As part of this commemoration, South Africa Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motswaledi will be leading South Africa’s biggest TB screening drive that will target areas that have high TB prevalence, particularly the mining areas in Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo and North West.

24 March, is an opportunity to raise awareness about the burden of tuberculosis (TB) worldwide. Below are some important things you should know about TB.

Did you know?

  • TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • Over 95% of tuberculosis deaths occur in low-and-middle-income countries. Poor communities and vulnerable groups are most affected, but the airborne disease is a risk to all.
  • Tuberculosis is among the top three causes of death for women aged 15 to 44.
  • There were an estimated 500,000 cases and 74,000 deaths among children in 2012 due to TB.
  • Tuberculosis is one of the key causes of death among people infected with HIV and this is also on the increase in Europe.
  • The death rate for tuberculosis dropped by 45% between 1990 and 2013.
  • An estimated 37 million lives were saved through diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2013.
  • About one-third of the world's population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.
  • When a person develops active tuberculosis, the symptoms (cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss) may be mild for many months. This can lead to delays in seeking care, and results in transmission of the bacteria to others. People ill with TB can infect between 10 to 15 people through close contact over the course of one year.
  • In 2013, the largest number of new TB cases occurred in the South East Asia and Western Pacific Regions, accounting for 56% of new cases globally.
  • Africa carried the greatest proportion of new cases per population with 280 cases per 100,000 population in 2013.

As we commemorate World TB day, let us use this opportunity to support and encourage people living with and suffering from TB to take treatment. TB can be cured. Taking precautionary measures is the way to go in order to prevent the spread of this disease. Precautionary measures include the following:

  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief when coughing
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Open windows everyday so that the house can be well ventilated.
  • When you know that you are infected with TB, try to spend more time outside.
  • If possible, avoid sharing a bedroom, and also make sure that the room is well ventilated.
  • Spend as little time as possible on public transport and also try to avoid spending time in places where large numbers of people are gathered.

                                                                           By Mehlolo Maphanga