Tuberculosis (TB) Fast Facts | CNN

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Tuberculosis, often shortened as TB, is a contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. The disease has plagued humanity for millennia, claiming millions of lives. Despite significant progress in medical research and healthcare, tuberculosis remains a formidable public health challenge, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

TB is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. The bacteria attack the lungs, causing symptoms such as prolonged coughing, chest pain, fever, and fatigue. In some cases, the bacteria can spread to other organs, such as the kidneys, bones, and brain. TB can be fatal if left untreated, but it is curable with proper medical intervention.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB is one of the top ten causes of death worldwide, with an estimated 1.4 million deaths in 2019 alone. The disease mostly affects adults, with over 95% of cases occurring in people aged 15 and above. However, children are also at risk, especially those living in households with TB patients.

TB is more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Poverty, malnutrition, crowded living conditions, and weak healthcare systems contribute to the spread of the disease. HIV/AIDS also increases the risk of developing TB, as the virus weakens the immune system, making it easier for the bacteria to attack.

TB diagnosis and treatment have improved significantly over the years, thanks to advances in medical research. To diagnose TB, doctors conduct various tests, such as sputum microscopy, chest X-rays, and molecular tests, to detect the bacteria. Treatment typically involves a combination of antibiotics taken over several months to ensure complete eradication of the bacteria.

Prevention is also a crucial component of TB control. WHO recommends a combination of measures, such as screening and treating people with latent TB, creating awareness about the disease, enhancing infection control practices in healthcare settings, and providing affordable and accessible healthcare services.

Despite the progress in TB control, the disease poses several challenges that require sustained efforts and resources to overcome. For instance, drug-resistant TB strains have emerged, making treatment more complicated, expensive, and less effective. The WHO estimates that over half a million people developed drug-resistant TB in 2019, with only one in three receiving proper treatment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted TB control efforts, diverting healthcare resources, and limiting access to healthcare services. Additionally, the pandemic has worsened poverty and malnutrition, further increasing the risk of TB transmission and progression.

In conclusion, TB remains a significant public health challenge that requires multi-sectoral efforts to overcome. Although TB diagnosis, treatment, and prevention have improved significantly over the years, drug-resistant TB strains, weak healthcare systems, and socio-economic factors continue to pose challenges. Therefore, sustained efforts are needed to enhance and maintain TB control efforts, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Through well-funded and coordinated efforts, we can ultimately achieve the global goal of ending TB by 2030.