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The World Health Organization has declared tuberculosis a global emergency and epidemic. One-third of the world population is now infected with tuberculosis. More people died worldwide last year from tuberculosis than in any other year in history. This year over 8 million people will contract tuberculosis, which kills 3 million people annually. Multi-drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis have now been identified in 42 states in the U.S. Large numbers of people are now infected without knowing it, and any of them could eventually develop the disease. Incurable drug-resistant strains are easily passed on, and currently 50 million people are at serious risk worldwide.
Reports from various Centers for Disease Control show that drug-resistant tuberculosis is showing up across the U.S., now in 42 states, according to William Bishai, M.D., Ph.D., a Johns Hopkins immunologist. Various CDCs report that this is a big increase over past years.
Dr. Lee Reichman, executive director of the New Jersey Medical School National Tuberculosis Center in Newark, says that the states with the most significant increases are not the 14 states where this epidemic started 10 years ago. It is not the states we would expect, he said, which would normally include New York, New Jersey, Texas and California. He said it is actually the Southern and Midwest states which are reporting multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis.
"there's a lot of people out there in 42 states infected"
Dr. Lee Reichman, National Tuberculosis Center
"The hidden thing there, is when you are looking at multi-drug-resistance (MDR), you are looking at actual cases of tuberculosis - but only 10% of people ever infected get to be a case," said Dr. Reichman, "So that means there’s a lot of people out there in 42 states infected with MDR who haven’t yet gotten TB - they may or may not (develop the disease)."
Dr. Reichman says that there are many serious medical concerns associated with treating TB. "These things are saying we’ve still got problems to solve and we better solve them. Otherwise, in three to four years people are going to be saying ‘there’s another TB epidemic, my God, we’ve got to do something about it,’" Reichman said.
"Alarming" rates of multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis are appearing in every country, with some "hot zones" appearing where tuberculosis has become virtually incurable, according to Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez of New York City’s Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, the lead author of a new study. He went on to say that people with resistant strains can pass an incurable infection on. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said that "the stage is being set for substantial increase in the incidence of drug-resistant tuberculosis in many countries.’’ They also said that "the findings should be interpreted as a call to action to reduce this threat."
One-third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis bacterium, with eight million people developing the disease every year. Tuberculosis is epidemic and has been declared a global emergency and major public health threat. According to World Health Organization official, Levon Arevshatian, "It is estimated that TB kills some three million people per year, representing more than five percent deaths globally."
Worried by the fact that tuberculosis has become epidemic, and kills more people each year than any previous year in history, the World Health Organization sent a warning to the international community to apply new therapies with greater rigor. They say that currently 50 million people are at risk of infection with drug-resistant strains, which raises the cost of the usual treatment from $2,000 to an average of $250,000 per patient. Tuberculosis is currently the most lethal of all infectious diseases for both children and adults. Between two and three million people die from tuberculosis each year.
A congressional report describes efforts to combat TB as being complicated because of the emergence of strains resistant to anti-TB drugs. In the report, congressional analysts describe how new cases of tuberculosis are increasing at an alarming rate. Representative Ed Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Governmental Operations subcommittee on human resources, said: "This is a chilling report; it is an indictment of our public-health system."
Report from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, October 13, 1997
The Journal of the American Medical Association, September, 1997, #278: pp. 833-837, 838-842, 843-846, 865-867
New England Journal of Medicine, June 4, 1998.
Xinhua News Service, March 24, 1998, World TB Day reports
Tuberculosis Not Beaten Yet; Inter Press Service (IPS), Geneva; February 19, 1998.
The Associated Press, October 8, 1993, as quoted in American Medical News, February 14, 1994
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