Ten facts you didn't know about Tuberculosis
Did you know that in 2014 1.5 million people died from tuberculosis? Many don’t realise just how prevalent tuberculosis still is. It’s widely known as a disease that time forgot: a relic of the Victorian age. However, for many people across the globe, it’s still a danger, and it’s still fatal.
This is why the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched World Tuberculosis Day. Taking place on the 24th March, the day focuses on new commitments to fighting tuberculosis, whether through treatment, research or awareness.
We thought we’d do our own bit for World Tuberculosis Day, and highlight ten little-known facts you may not know about the disease.
1. TB isn’t a disease of the past
Tuberculosis is still a very real danger, and in 2014, infected 9.6 million people across the world. Of these 9.6 million, 1.5 million people died as a result of the disease. This fatality rate is the same as that of diabetes, and even higher than that of stomach cancer.
2. It’s an airborne disease
Tuberculosis is so dangerous because of how infectious it is. It’s an airborne disease, meaning anybody could be infected by it in a very short space of time. For example, if an untreated sufferer has coughed or sneezed in a room you’re in, there’s a chance you could catch TB, too.
3. Tuberculosis originated in cattle
It’s thought that tuberculosis was originally a disease that infected livestock. However, tuberculosis bacteria started to evolve, producing a separate strain that could infect people, too.
4. Modern celebrities have experienced TB
George Orwell, Vivien Leigh and, more recently, Tom Jones, have all contracted tuberculosis. Tom Jones survived his childhood infection, but unfortunately, both Orwell and Leigh passed away after a fight with the disease. Even more recently, the Brazilian football player, Thiago Silva, was struck down with TB in 2005, before making a full recovery.
5. Two billion are already infected with it
That’s one third of the world’s population. Almost 4,500 people die from tuberculosis every day, including 400 children. In fact, the World Health Organisation has named TB as second only to HIV and AIDS as the biggest killer worldwide.
6. TB doesn’t only affect the lungs
While the lungs are the organ most commonly infected by tuberculosis, the disease can also occur in other parts of the body, including the bones, the urinary tract and the brain.
7. It isn’t always easy to treat
Tuberculosis can take different forms, many of which are resistant to different types of antibiotics. Treatment for TB is for a minimum of 6 months to make sure all the bacteria are killed but drug resistant TB is even more difficult to treat and medicines may need to be taken for 18 months or more.
8. Tuberculosis can lie dormant
Not everyone develops symptoms of TB as soon as they are infected. In some sufferers, TB won’t become active until weeks, or even months, later. In others, it can lie dormant for years. Those most at risk of developing active tuberculosis already have a damaged immune system.
9. Prevention is key
Those with weak immune systems are at a much greater risk of contracting tuberculosis. Things like a poor diet, lack of sleep and stress can all have an impact, so ensuring that you take care of yourself will go a long way to building up your resistance to this kind of disease.
10. Tuberculosis is a worldwide killer
More than 95 per cent of tuberculosis cases, and tuberculosis-related deaths occur in developing countries. Those most susceptible to catching the disease are people whose immune system is already weakened by suffering from HIV. In fact, HIV sufferers are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop TB.
By 2030, the World Health Organisation aims to cut tuberculosis-related deaths by 90 per cent. Will you be helping them raise awareness on World Tuberculosis Day?
Did you know that Benenden was founded in 1905 to help provide treatment for postal workers suffering from Tuberculosis? Find out more about Benenden’s heritage here.
This article was first published on 21st March 2016.