Date Published: 21 March 2007
NZ Ministry of Health marks World TB Day - 24 March
World TB Day 24 March 2007
The commemoration of World TB Day 2007 serves as a stark reminder that tuberculosis (TB), a deadly disease that has affected mankind for thousands of years, is still a serious public health threat. The World Health Organization’s chosen theme this year is “Tuberculosis anywhere is everywhere” reminding us all, throughout the world, that there is a collective responsibility to combat this curable disease.
Despite global TB control efforts, the availability of drugs to cure TB and a vaccine that reduces the impact of the disease on young children, TB remains one of the most common causes of death from an infectious disease. The World Health Organization estimates that around 1.7 million people die from TB each year. Tuberculosis is spread person to person by coughing and sneezing.
Tuberculosis continues to occur in New Zealand. On average, 300–400 cases occur each year. In 2005 there were 348 people notified with tuberculosis (new cases and reactivations).
The WHO Africa region has both the highest number of deaths and mortality per capita resulting from tuberculosis globally. The burden of tuberculosis in the region is worsened by the co-present HIV epidemic. Individuals with HIV infection have an increased risk of tuberculosis and treatment is more difficult. Tuberculosis is a leading cause of death in HIV-infected people worldwide.
March 24 commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific
community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the
TB bacillus. At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through
Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people.
Koch's discovery opened the way toward diagnosing and curing tuberculosis.
The New Zealand tuberculosis control programme evolved from the enactment of the Tuberculosis Act 1948. Under this Act, the Medical Officer of Health in the regional public health service is given wide powers for the investigation and control of all tuberculosis cases and their contacts, including as a last resort, detention for treatment.
Control of tuberculosis in New Zealand depends on effective diagnosis and treatment, on individuals completing their course of treatment, and rigorous contact tracing involving health checks and tests in families and communities. This ensures that people who have had contact with someone with tuberculosis can be offered preventive treatment or be regularly examined to ensure early detection of disease.
Ongoing work to control tuberculosis includes:
- early case detection
- BCG vaccination to infants at risk
- treating cases and follow up to ensure a cure
- Directly Observed Therapy (DOTS) individuals are observed and monitored taking their medication
- contact tracing and the provision of preventive treatment
- education of health care workers
- education of the public to the signs and symptoms of tuberculosis and the need to seek medical attention
- provision of laboratory services
- guidelines for at-risk occupational groups
- screening of new immigrants to New Zealand.
Tuberculosis is easily treated and, if diagnosed early, the majority of cases have good outcomes.
The Ministry of Health publication Guidelines for Tuberculosis Control in New Zealand 2003 provides further information.
Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health (NZ).