Today on World TB Day - more than a century after the scientific discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB), TB continues to be one of the world's most deadly infectious diseases and among the leading causes of death worldwide. That TB is preventable and virtually curable makes this all the more unacceptable. The numbers tell a tragic story. An astonishing 2 billion people - that's one third of the world's population - are infected with TB with nearly 10 million active cases occurring each year. At least a third of active cases go undiagnosed every year, which means millions of individuals continue to transmit the infection, become ill, risk disease progression and even death. In fact, TB claims 1.5 million lives every year.
The global health community has called for an End to TB by 2035. But turning the tide worldwide on this deadly disease will require greater political will and investments from all corners of the global public health community.
Here at CDC, our mandate is to protect Americans 24/7 from public health threats at home and abroad. Recent public health crises such as Ebola and Zika drive home the fact that, in this interconnected world, infectious disease knows no borders. TB is an airborne disease that can spread from person to person regardless of borders or nationalities. The reality is that TB anywhere is TB everywhere. CDC's domestic TB control efforts have long acknowledged that, if we are to be effective, this disease must be fought on two fronts - both at home and abroad.
CDC is working side by side with ministries of health to find, cure, and prevent TB worldwide, through a combination of on-the-ground interventions in more than 25 countries. Our efforts are focused on reducing TB, including multi-drug resistant TB, especially among those who are most vulnerable such as people living with HIV, children and those battling chronic diseases like diabetes. We have long recognized that eliminating TB in the United States, requires that we pair our efforts domestically with redoubled efforts to combat TB in the highest burden countries.
CDC is also driving innovation to end TB as a global public health threat - conducting leading-edge research to optimize new tools for diagnosing TB, developing new treatment regimens for TB and drug-resistant TB worldwide and establishing best practices to end TB transmission in health care facilities. Our efforts to combat TB happen every day through the efforts of leading global experts like Dr. Peter Cegielski in our Division of Global HIV and TB whose groundbreaking research on the prevention and treatment of TB and drug-resistant TB is laying the foundation for the next wave of TB control strategies. Our goal is to find innovative solutions to the most intractable challenges facing TB and MDR TB. For example, in India, we are equipping local disease detectives with the epidemiological and public health tools to help create solutions tailored to their local epidemics. In Haiti, we are working with partners to scale-up access to critical services for those co-infected with HIV and TB. And in Nigeria, we are working alongside the Ministry of Health to arm frontline healthcare workers with the knowledge and skills they need to stop TB in its tracks.
But CDC - or any other single institution - can't do it alone. It will take us all - civil society, the private sector, government and international partners - working together to Unite to End TB.
CDC is proud to have a lead technical role in the President's National Action Plan for Combating MDR TB, and is working through the Global Health Security Agenda with ministries of health, multilateral agencies and the private sector to stop this deadly disease. We're also leveraging our strong partnerships and experience in the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to tackle HIV and TB together to have the greatest impact.
Ultimately TB is a global problem and as a global community we have achieved remarkable progress over the past 15 years - saving more than 43 million lives since 2000. But we urgently need to do even more.
It's critical that we continue to use every strategy and tool currently at our disposal and also move to develop new prevention and treatment measures: better, faster diagnostics; shorter, less toxic, more effective treatment options; and an effective vaccine - to stop the spread of all forms of TB.
If we are to see an end to TB in our lifetime, we must continue to work together to fight this epidemic on multiple fronts, and stop the suffering associated with this deadly disease, here at home - and around the world.
To learn more about CDC's on-the-ground efforts to fight TB around the world, visit the Global TB Web site.
This post is part of the 'The Isolation of Airborne Cancer' series produced by The Huffington Post for World TB Day. This series will look at the devastating issues surrounding tuberculosis, the number one infectious killer. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #WorldTBDay.
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