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Saturday, 17 April 2010

Tuberculosis: the return of the white plague? Statistics

The last few weeks have seen an explosion of reports concerning the status of the worldwide fight against tuberculosis, largely precipitated by World TB Day last month on March 24. Tuberculosis was once considered a disease of the past, an illness, like diphtheria, thought to have faded away with the Victorian era as a serious cause for concern. Indeed, for many people today any mention of TB might still be more likely to evoke thoughts about the death of Helen Burns due to “consumption” in Jane Eyre, than to incite any sense of panic. And while many people from more developed countries might not have ever known anyone personally to have been infected with TB (I know I haven’t), the reality is that TB has resurged as one of the most pervasive and deadly diseases in the world. What was once historically referred to as the “white plague” is today thought to cause one death every 15 seconds. It is estimated that approximately one third of the world’s population is currently infected with TB, with higher incidence rates found primarily in African and Asian countries, and 1 in 10 of these latent infections resulting in death. The rate at which TB spreads is equally alarming: the most recent data estimates that a new person is infected with TB every second of every day.

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