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World TB Day

Mar 24, 2015

Let’s eliminate TB once and for all

Last summer, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched an ambitious new campaign to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) in 33 “low-burden” countries, including Canada, where there are fewer than 10 TB cases per 100,000 population.

The framework outlines an initial “pre-elimination” phase aiming to have less than 1 case per 100,000 people per year by 2035. The ultimate goal is to then achieve full elimination of TB – defined as less than 1 case per million people per year – by 2050.

“This is a goal we can, and must, pursue,” said George Habib, president and CEO of the Ontario Lung Association. “Every six hours, a new case of TB is reported in Canada. More than a third of these cases are right here in Ontario, with the highest incidence rates among people from countries where TB is endemic. However, TB is preventable, treatable and curable. There are new drugs and new drug combinations available to treat TB.”

Habib said that Canada’s federal and provincial health policy makers and public health authorities need to re-energize efforts to eliminate TB as a public health problem and prevent its resurgence.

“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “Canada had 1,686 new cases of TB in 2012. That is almost five per 100,000 and that rate has not shifted significantly for a decade.”

The new WHO framework highlights the effectiveness of eight key interventions designed to bring down TB rates in the targeted “low burden” countries:

  • Ensure funding and stewardship for planning and services of high quality;
  • Address most vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups;
  • Address cross-border issues including the special needs of migrants;
  • Undertake screening for active TB and Latent TB Infection in high-risk groups and provide appropriate treatment; manage outbreaks;
  • Optimize multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB prevention and care;
  • Ensure continued surveillance and program monitoring and evaluation;
  • Invest in research and new tools; and
  • Support global TB control.

What is TB? TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that spread through the air. About one-third of the world’s population has latent TB, which means they are infected but are not ill and cannot transmit the disease. People with latent TB have a 10 per cent risk over their lifetime of getting active TB. People who have compromised immune systems or diabetes have a much higher risk of becoming ill. Most TB cases are treatable and curable with a standard six- to 12-month supervised treatment course. Drug-resistant TB has emerged in recent years because of the inappropriate or incorrect use of anti-TB drugs, and use of poor quality medicines.

Global Status – Although the global TB death rate dropped 41 per cent between 1990 and 2011, 8.7 million people became ill and 1.4 million died from TB in 2011, making it the second biggest infectious killer of adults worldwide. More than 95 per cent of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries where it is among the top three killers of women aged 15 to 44.

World TB Day – World TB Day falls on March 24 each year, commemorating the day in 1882 when the German scientist Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacillus that causes TB. At the time, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, killing one out of every seven people. The discovery of TB bacteria led to the development of treatments that cure the disease.

The Lung Association and TB – The Lung Association was founded in 1900 to fight TB. Its original name was The Canadian Association for the Prevention of Consumption and other Forms of Tuberculosis. The Ontario Lung Association contributes to the exchange of knowledge on TB research and clinical management by organizing a biannual TB Conference for health-care professionals in Toronto. It also publishes TB resources for health professionals including TB: Information for Health Care Providers and Assessment and Treatment of Latent Tuberculosis Infection (LTBI): Quick Reference. Additional TB resources for health professionals and the public can be found on the websites of the Canadian Lung Association (www.lung.ca) and Ontario Lung Association (www.on.lung.ca).

Efforts to prevent and control TB overlap with other Lung Association initiatives such as its long-standing smoking prevention and cessation programs. The Public Health Agency of Canada says that a smoker with latent TB has two to three times the risk of developing active TB as a non-smoker. Smoking also increases the risk of death among TB patients by up to six times.

 About the Ontario Lung Association
The Ontario Lung Association is a registered charity that assists, educates and empowers individuals living with or caring for others with lung disease. The Lung Association provides programs and services to patients and health-care providers, invests in lung research and campaigns for improved policies on lung health. Information about lung health issues is available through the Lung Health Information Line 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or at info@on.lung.ca

For more information
John Chenery 416-864-9911 ext. 292 | jchenery@on.lung.ca