LPNI Health Topic – March 2017


Tuberculosis: A Global Epidemic

March 24th has been designated as World Tuberculosis Day.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has selected this date to bring awareness to this global epidemic affecting one-third of the world’s population and to commemorate the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch identified the cause of tuberculosis (TB) –  the TB bacillus.


Tuberculosis has plagued civilization since ancient times.  Archaeologists have found spinal tuberculosis in Egyptian mummy remains.  Wheat Ridge Ministries was originally founded in 1905 as the Evangelical Lutheran Sanitarium to treat patients with tuberculosis.  Early treatment included rest, improved diet and isolation.


Tuberculosis is spread by airborne droplets when an infected person with active TB sneezes, coughs or spits.  To become infected, a person need only inhale a small amount of these germs.  Latent TB is the term used to describe the person who has been infected with TB but is not ill or contagious at this time. About 10 per cent of those infected with latent TB will become ill with active TB.  Those living with HIV, malnutrition, diabetes or who use tobacco have a much higher risk of developing active tuberculosis.  TB and HIV are a lethal combination.  In 2015, 35 per cent of HIV deaths were due to TB.[1]


While Tuberculosis is listed as one of the top 10 causes of death globally, it is considered a treatable and curable disease.  Combinations of first-line drugs will cure most patients with drug-susceptible TB within six months.  Drug-resistant TB is more challenging to diagnose and treat.  Antibiotic resistance is a serious and growing problem.


Tuberculosis occurs globally, with the highest reported new cases in 2015 occurring at 61 per cent in Asia and 26 per cent in Africa.[2]  Overcrowding and malnutrition are key risk factors for TB, making it a major disease of those living in poverty.


The WHO has set about an ambitious plan to drastically reduce the prevalence and death rates.   The strategy aims to end the global TB epidemic, with targets to reduce TB deaths by 95 per cent, and to cut new cases by 90 per cent between 2015 and 2035, and to ensure that no family is burdened with catastrophic expenses due to TB. [3]


Additional information on this observance: http://www.stoptb.org/events/world_tb_day/


 Carol Broemmer, RN, MA                                                                                                 

 LCMS Missouri District Parish Nurse Representative                             


[1] World Health Organization Tuberculosis Fact Sheet 104, October 2016.
[2] World Health Organization Tuberculosis Fact Sheet 104, October 2016.
[3] Who.int/tb/strategy/en