Each year we recognize World TB Day on March 24 to celebrate the discovery of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis by Dr. Robert Koch in 1882. World TB Day is our chance to talk about Tuberculosis- related concerns and share ideas to support worldwide TB control. TB is a disease spread through the air from one person to another. While a lot of work has been done to control and cure TB within the US, people still get sick and die from it every year. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, TB is the top infectious disease killer worldwide. This year the Centers for Disease Control selected the theme “Find TB. Treat TB. Working together to eliminate TB.” This highlights that it takes an entire community of people working together to end the spread of TB disease. It also reveals the sad fact that TB is still a lifethreatening problem and current efforts to find and treat TB disease are not enough. A united effort is needed to identify new strategies to improve testing and treatment options.
The good news is we don’t have to fight TB alone. There are things you can do to help protect those most vulnerable.
Get tested for TB if you have spent time with someone who has TB disease, you have HIV infection or a medical problem that weakens the immune system, you have symptoms of TB disease such as fever, night sweats, cough and weight loss, you are from or have spent time in a country where TB disease is common such as Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia, and you live or work where you may be exposed to the disease such as homeless shelters, jails or some nursing homes.
Another way to prevent the spread of TB disease is to complete treatment for Latent TB Infection. Latent TB Infection is when you have tested positive for the TB germ but are not presently spreading the illness. This treatment will decrease your risk of progressing to active TB in your lifetime and decreases your need for lengthy and difficult treatment for TB in the future. It will also decrease the chance that you will make other people sick with TB later in your life.
If you are want to learn more about TB visit www.cdc.gov/tb. You can also call Sheboygan County Division of Public Health at 920-4590321 to learn more about your risk factors and testing. Learning more about your risk is the first step toward stopping the TB germ. “Atrisk” screening, early identification and treatment of TB infection and disease is our best defense against TB outbreaks in our neighborhoods, schools, businesses and health care settings but we need your help to make sure that this happens.
Everyone can play a role in making sure that we can build a world free of TB.
Starrlene Grossman, RN, is a public health nurse with the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health