TB Day 2002: A struggle against TB
24 March 2002
SOME FACTS ABOUT TUBERCULOSIS:
- TB in prisons: Containing a catastrophe One in four adult men in Russia has been incarcerated at last once in his life. But the conditions common in Russian prisons - massive overcrowding, malnutrition, lack of hygiene, sunlight and ventilation - make them an ideal breeding ground for tuberculosis, and can turn punishment for small crimes into death penalties.
- TB in civil society: Facing a rising epidemic With TB rates reducing in the prisons, the rates are climbing in the general population. This article has with interviews with TB sufferers. 'I've heard that in the West, they can cure TB. But here, you can only buy time...' says Zhenia. 'I know that I'm chronic, that I cannot be cured, and that I will die of this disease'.
- The battle to contain the tuberculosis epidemic in civil society takes doctors and nurses outside of their working places and into seedy neighborhoods tracking 'defaulters' - persons sick with tuberculosis who have interrupted their treatment. The problem is that, besides putting their own lives at risk, those with active TB may infect 10 to 20 other individuals per year.
- Every year, 2 million people die of TB and 8 million people develop active TB.
- One third of the world is currently infected, and 16 million suffer daily from active TB.
- 95% of TB cases and 98% of TB deaths occur in poor countries. The epidemic is expected to worsen in the next few years, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia.
- Every year over 1.5 million people acquire active TB in sub-Saharan Africa. This number is rising rapidly as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: TB is an opportunistic disease that preys on HIV-positive people whose immune systems are weakened.
- TB is a leading cause of death among people with AIDS, and in some regions of Africa, three-quarters of TB patients are HIV-infected.
- TB spreads through the air and is highly contagious. On average, a person with infectious TB infects 10-15 others every year.
- People infected with TB do not necessarily become ill - the immune system creates a barrier around the bacilli which can remain dormant for years. 10% of infected people (who do not have HIV/AIDS) develop active TB at some point during their lifetime.
- Patients develop a persistent cough (sometimes with blood in the sputum), fever, weight loss, chest pain and breathlessness.
- The currently recommended treatment is a drug combination that must be taken for 6-8 months.