Here’s a photo from the beginning of the 20th century. School being held outside during a TB pandemic.
If you are tempted to believe that COVID is worse than tuberculosis, keep in mind that TB was usually a death sentence, and remained so until treatment was developed using specific antibiotics in the 1940’s. Even in modern times, a total of 1.5 million people died from TB – although it is now curable and preventable – in 2018! That is more than twice the number of reported COVID-19 death worldwide this year (595,000.)
The statistics, according to the WHO:
- A total of 1.5 million people died from TB in 2018 (including 251 000 people with HIV). Worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent (above HIV/AIDS).
- In 2018, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis(TB) worldwide. 5.7 million men, 3.2 million women and 1.1 million children. There were cases in all countries and age groups. But TB is curable and preventable.
- In 2018, 1.1 million children fell ill with TB globally, and there were 205 000 child deaths due to TB (including among children with HIV). Child and adolescent TB is often overlooked by health providers and can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
- In 2018, the 30 high TB burden countries accounted for 87% of new TB cases. Eight countries account for two thirds of the total, with India leading the count, followed by, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.
- Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat. WHO estimates that there were 484 000 new cases with resistance to rifampicin – the most effective first-line drug, of which 78% had MDR-TB.
- Globally, TB incidence is falling at about 2% per year. This needs to accelerate to a 4–5% annual decline to reach the 2020 milestones of the End TB Strategy.
- An estimated 58 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2018.
- Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
If you are interested, here is a post I did about tuberculosis in 2016:
This post includes a link to a PBS documentary titled, “The Forgotten Plague”. Did you know that (according to PBS):
By the dawn of the 19th century, the deadliest killer in human history, tuberculosis, had killed one in seven of all the people who had ever lived. The disease struck America with a vengeance, ravaging communities and touching the lives of almost every family. The battle against the deadly bacteria had a profound and lasting impact on the country. It shaped medical and scientific pursuits, social habits, economic development, western expansion, and government policy. Yet both the disease and its impact are poorly understood: in the words of one writer, tuberculosis is our “forgotten plague.”