Indiana State Health Officials Mark World TB Day

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World TB Day is a time when countries around the world make an effort to raise public awareness that tuberculosis (TB) is still a serious public health concern. This year, World TB Day is on Saturday, March 24.
It was on this date in 1882 that Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that cause TB. Although TB is an ancient disease, it is not a disease of the past. It remains one of the leading causes of death among infectious diseases worldwide, even though it is readily treatable and preventable. Tuberculosis causes nearly two million deaths each year, and is the number one killer of AIDS patients worldwide.

"We need to remember that tuberculosis is a serious worldwide public health threat," said Loren Robertson, assistant commissioner, Health and Human Services at the State Department of Health. "We must continue our efforts to control and eliminate this disease."

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The disease is spread through the air from one person to another when someone with TB coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. Antibiotics are available that can cure TB disease and prevent latent TB infection from developing into active disease. Health officials say assuring that patients with active TB disease complete treatment is the most important aspect of TB control.

Indiana's TB rate declined in 2006, with 125 cases reported. That's a drop from 146 recorded in 2005 and below the national average, making Indiana a low incident state. In 2005, 54 percent of those cases in Indiana were in the three most populous counties: Allen, Lake and Marion.

An estimated nine million people (one-third of the Earth's population) are infected with the bacteria that cause TB, although most people with latent TB infection never develop the disease. In these people, the TB bacteria can remain inactive for a lifetime without causing problems. But in others, especially those with weak immune systems, the bacteria can become active and cause TB in the lungs and throat.

Although trends suggest that the nation is advancing towards elimination, significant challenges remain, particularly the increasing impact of the global TB epidemic on the United States, the continued threat of multi-drug resistant TB, and the interaction between HIV infection and TB.

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