I used to think tuberculosis (TB) was a disease of the past, a disease that died with Doc Holiday, but that is not the case. There were 196 cases in Washington state alone in 2014 — 101 of these cases were in King County, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Since TB is an airborne disease, anyone can be exposed when the bacteria is floating in the air.
According to U.N. Special Envoy on Tuberculosis Eric P. Goosby, tuberculosis is now the No. 1 infectious-disease killer in our world, killing 4,100 people each day. Yet, tuberculosis is completely curable.
The problem arises from a lack of access to medicine or when patients do not take all of their medicine, because the treatment is months-long and has horrible side effects. Not completing TB treatment can result in drug-resistant (DR-TB), multi-drug-resistant (MDR-TB) and even extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). There are three cases of XDR-TB in America today.
Each case of XDR-TB can cost up to $1 million to cure. But there is hope.
World Tuberculosis Day is March 24, commemorating the 1882 discovery of the cause of tuberculosis by Dr. Robert Koch. This year, the theme of World Tuberculosis Day is “Unite to End TB.”
Last December, President Barack Obama announced the National Action Plan to Combat MDR-TB — that is hope. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has been successfully battling all three diseases.
Dr. Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund, says we are on the right side of the tipping point on all three diseases — that is hope. We are the generation with the historic opportunity to control these diseases, or we can ignore this opportunity and watch them quickly spiral out of control.
Even more importantly in the long run is that 40 percent of Global Fund grants go to strengthen the health-care systems of countries receiving these grants. Stronger health-care systems will be more likely to stop new diseases at their source and keep pandemics under control.
Ebola and the Zika virus have shown us that disease must be treated globally. The Global Fund has shown the way to deal with these diseases, funding local solutions to a global problem.
The countries most burdened by tuberculosis are contributing 87 percent of the money to battle this pandemic. Still, America — along with other countries and private donors — must help to turn the tide.
Congress will more likely take action if citizens let them know it is time to pull out all stops and unite to fight global pandemics. So call, tweet, email or visit your representatives and tell them it is time to conquer these diseases globally. Let us take action this World Tuberculosis Day with steps to end this disease that has plagued mankind since the dawn of time. It is by raising our voices that there is hope.
WILLIE DICKERSON volunteers with RESULTS (results.org), working to end hunger and poverty in America and the world. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.