Friday, December 19, 2014
The TB Epidemic
Humans have dealt with Tuberculosis (tubercle bacillus or TB) for thousands of years, dating back 6,000 years. They have even been found in the spines of 3,000 year old mummies. Hippocrates observed that it was the most widespread disease of his time, and it continues to plague us today.
After WHO recognized it as a global emergency on 1993, coordinated global efforts using the DOTS treatment strategy have reduced mortality rates by 45% between 1999 and 2012. However, TB continues to be a significant global issue, with an estimated 9 million new cases and 1.5 million deaths each year. With these figures, there are no signs that the epidemic is self-limiting. Because it is variable, its latent period can run decades, and an individual can be infectious for an entire lifetime, TB epidemics are slow to spread but also extremely slow to self-limit. In terms of demographics and economics, the TB epidemic may actually be more costly than the explosive, gory and popular epidemics that tend to the news.