World Tuberculosis Day

Tuberculosis (TB) hasn’t left us. While the world has come a long way from the days when one in every seven people died from the disease, it’s still important to recognize that TB can sicken and kill people in the U.S. and beyond. TB is the 13th leading cause of death worldwide. 

On March 24, we recognize World TB Day, the day in 1882 that Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of the bacteria that cause TB: Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Antibiotics to treat TB were developed in 1943.  

TB can be found in all 50 states, including Virginia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 13 million people in the U.S. have latent TB infection (LTBI). That means they don’t have any symptoms but do carry the bacteria in their bodies. And while they can’t spread it to others, they could develop TB disease in their lifetimes.  

Anyone can get TB. It can be spread through the air when someone with active TB disease coughs, speaks or sings. Testing and treatment are available and can save lives.  

Here are a few more interesting facts about TB:  

  • In the early 1800s, some people in New England believed TB could be caused by vampires. 
  • Archeologists found TB in the remains of people who died 9,000 years ago in Atlit Yam, a city off the coast of Israel now under the Mediterranean Sea. 
  • TB also can be found in animals in the U.S., including cattle and deer. 
  • The TB skin test used today to diagnose the disease is basically the same one that has been used for almost 80 years. Blood tests also are available. 
  • Before antibiotics, isolation in a sanitorium and proper nutrition were the best treatment for TB. 

To learn more, visit the CDC’s TB History page.  

Testing and treatment are critical to preventing TB disease and ending TB in our lifetimes.