Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) observed March 24 as the World Tuberculosis Day to raise public awareness about this global epidemic.
Here are 10 shocking facts about the disease that you should know on World Tuberculosis Day:
1. According to WHO, almost 2 million people die because of tuberculosis (TB), ie, approximately there are 5000 TB deaths every day although the disease is curable.
2. In 2015, 9.6 million tuberculosis cases were reported across the world, out out which there were 2.2 million TB cases in India only.
3. Even a person, whose his lungs are infected with bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), but is not aware of his disease as initially the common symptoms like high fever, constant sweating and/or harsh coughing do not show up, can spread TB.
If such a person coughs, pits or sneezes in public and people nearby inhales the microscopic droplets spread through this, they may get infected as well. In one year, a person with active tuberculosis can infect as many as 15 people.
4. Tuberculosis is not a disease that affects only the poor. Even Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan was diagnosed with TB in 2000 while shooting for his hit game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). As per WHO, in 2013, America recorded nearly 10,000 tuberculosis cases.
5. According to tbfacts.org, about 40% of the Indian population carries bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), ie, they have latent TB.
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6. Though tuberculosis is curable, the disease might make the patient drug resistant if the four antimicrobial medicines is not taken properly over a six-month period.
7. Tuberculosis is a disease that is over 70,000 years old, claims researchers led by Sebastien Gagneux of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. This makes the disease older than even the Egyptian mummies.
8. Long before the use of antibiotics to treat tuberculosis, sanitariums were set up to cure patients.
In the late 1800s, based on the theory that TB patients need good diet, rest, lot of sunshine and fresh mountain air to recover, many sanitariums came up all over the Alps. The first one was opened by German physician Hermann Brehmer in 1859.
9. With famous personalities like Emily Bronte, John Keats, Anton Chekov, Albert Camus, Frederic Chopin, Franz Kafka and Henry David Thoreau succumbing to tuberculosis in the 19th and 20th centuries when TB became an epidemic in Europe and North America, people started romanticizing the disease.
10. It was while working with TB patients that French physician René Laennec invented the stethoscope in 1816. In 1895, German/Dutch physicist Wilhelm Röntgen discovered the X-Ray, paving way for better diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.