World Tuberculosis Day Raises Awareness about Deadly Disease

SOS Children's Villages Niger
Women with their children at an SOS Medical Center in Takorka, Niger.
3/25/2013: Sunday, March 24 was World Tuberculosis Day, a day supported by the United Nations and the World Health Organization to raise awareness about tuberculosis (TB) and how tuberculosis can be prevented and, eventually, stopped.

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious, deadly disease that kills over 70% of those infected if left untreated. WHO estimates that 1.4 million people die of tuberculosis and tuberculosis related complications every year, mostly in developing countries. Many, many more are infected. In 2011 alone there were an estimated 8.7 million new cases of tuberculosis.

Sadly, although the disease is curable many of its victims cannot afford the intensive treatment it requires. Tuberculosis requires patients to take multiple antibiotics for six months, and if there are any deviations from the treatment a drug resistant strain of the infection will most likely develop, leading to more costly and time consuming treatments.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Typically, this bacillus affects the lungs, causing pulmonary tuberculosis, but can affect other sites as well, causing what is known as extrapulmonary tuberculosis. Like many other infections, tuberculosis is an airborne infection that can be spread through coughing or sneezing.

Symptoms of tuberculosis include fever, chills, fatigue and a bloody cough – symptoms most people in developing countries do not have the resources to combat. Tuberculosis is also incredibly prevalent in persons with HIV/AIDS. In fact, tuberculosis is the leading killer of people with HIV/AIDS. In countries such as Haiti, tuberculosis kills nearly 13% of people with HIV/AIDS and infects another 30% every year.

SOS Children's Villages Niger
A mother carrying her child in her arms at the SOS Medical Center in Takorka, Niger.
Some Success, But More Work to be Done

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to halt and reverse tuberculosis by 2105 has already been achieved – new cases of tuberculosis have been falling steadily by about 2.2% percent every year.

However, global progress masks regional issues. Neither African nor Europe are on track to halve 1990 levels of mortality by 2015, and there continue to be critical gaps in funding for tuberculosis treatment and research. $8 billion is needed in low and middle income countries alone to cut tuberculosis mortality rates, and that doesn’t include the money necessary for furthering tuberculosis research.

SOS Children’s Villages has close to 80 Medical Centers, 700 Social Centers, and 25 Emergency Relief Programs – all of which help to give orphaned children and impoverished families desperately needed access to medical services, including tuberculosis treatments.

Donate to SOS Children’s Villages today to help contribute to medical centers and social programs worldwide, or sponsor a child in a country with high numbers of tuberculosis, such as Haiti, Malawi, Ukraine, Niger or Peru