For the 1st time in more than 20 years, health officials report a slight increase in the amount of new cases of tuberculosis despite (what was thought to be) better antibiotics and public health programs to control and treat the disease, which once killed 1 out of every 7 people both here and in Europe during the 1800’s. According to the CDC, as many as 13 million (about 3 cases for every 100,000) people in the US have latent tuberculosis, which means that although the bacteria lives in their lungs, they aren’t causing illness.
While people with latent TB are not considered contagious, the agency has been alarmed to see that the number of new cases rose to 9,563 in 2015, up from around 9,406 in 2014.
“It is always concerning when we see progress against a disease stall, especially when there are proven interventions to prevent it,” stated CDC director Tom Freiden, who, along with fellow agency official Dr. Jonathan Mermin has called for expanded efforts to bring those numbers back down.
Although it had been thought to have been under control before, TB flared during the 1980’s and 1990’s because of the AIDS epidemic, but had fallen back during the 1st decade of the new millennium. However, the news of the latest increases comes at a time when fighting the disease worldwide has become more complicated and costly as more and more people have picked up heavily drug-resistant forms while either traveling or having lived abroad.
Tuberculosis is usually caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium and is spread when people with active infections spit, sneeze cough or even speak. While it generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body including your kidneys, spine or brain. Signs and symptoms of active TB include: Coughing that lasts 3 weeks or more; Coughing up blood; Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing; Fatigue; Fever; Night sweats; Chills; Loss of appetite and Unintentional weight loss. When it occurs outside your lungs, signs and symptoms vary according to the organs involved. For example, tuberculosis of the spine may cause back pain, while TB in the kidneys can result in blood in your urine.
· While anyone can get TB, those at greatest risk are people with weakened immune systems such as those with HIV/AIDS; certain cancers, (as well as people getting chemotherapy), diabetics, people taking drugs to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, and the very young and very old. It has also been found that some drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis can increase the risk, as can malnutrition