World TB Day is celebrated each March 24, commemorating the anniversary of the day in 1882 when Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB). The day serves to build public awareness that though much has changed since Koch’s time, the fight against tuberculosis still rages on. This year’s World TB Day theme is “Unite to End TB” and the day will be marked with a Congressional Briefing and calls for action globally and in the United States.
TB remains a leading cause of preventable infectious disease deaths worldwide, and the increasing global emergence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis increase public health workload and pose public health challenges, particularly with the growing potential for importation and subsequent spread of these infections in our communities. TB continues to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, and requires a strong public health infrastructure to maintain adequate prevention and control measures. In addition, underlying risk factors for TB such as diabetes and renal disease are rapidly on the rise and contribute to the threat of tuberculosis resurgence.
Local health departments are on the frontlines of combatting this disease—they treat individuals infected, track the spread of the disease, and are responsible for testing people at high risk of infection. In fact, according to NACCHO’s National Profile of Local Health Departments, tuberculosis screening and treatment are two of the top ten directly provided services offered most frequently by local health departments.
So let us unite to end TB, this disease fought simultaneously on the global scale and the local level. World TB Day is being promoted by many partners including Aeras, which created a new video on tuberculosis, the CDC, Stop TB Partnership, the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association, and Management Sciences for Health which outlines the problem and 4 Ways to End TB. For more on how local health departments fight TB, view a blog from the Big Cities Health Coalition, Tuberculosis Hits Home in Las Vegas.