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Tuberculosis is spreading globally

Mycobacterium tuberculosisCases of tuberculosis (TB) are on the rise in West European cities.  TB cases in large cities like London, Brussels, and Barcelona are much higher when compared to the national tuberculosis notification rates.

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease; it is sometimes referred to as consumption and the “white plague” due to its ability to make victims pale, feverish, and skinny.

The bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes TBIn most cases, TB attacks the lungs; however, the bacterium can also invade any part of the body including the brain, spine, or kidneys.  TB can cause death, if not properly treated.

Global tuberculosis epidemic

Tuberculosis is the second leading global infectious disease; AIDS is the leading infectious disease.  The World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed tuberculosis a global emergency in 1993.  They assert close to 2 million people will become infected by 2015.

Victims of this contagious lung infectious disease are predominately poor, homeless, drug addicts, and immigrants in Europe’s Western big cities. Britain’s government health agency, Public Health England (PHE) reported 8,750 cases in 2012.

Reports also show that 3,426 cases were in London.

In 2011, 1.4 million people died from getting tuberculosis.

Ibrahim Abubakar, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College, London, explains,

“Although we have long understood that TB affects specific groups and is often concentrated in urban areas, what we are now witnessing is a marked change, where rates of TB are showing an overall reduction nationally while still increasing within big cities.”

Stopping the spread of tuberculosis

The World Bank warns the international community that tuberculosis is spreading globally at an alarming rate.  Poor and vulnerable communities are especially at risk of contracting TB.

The World Bank also affirms there is a growing drug resistance to TB, with nearly 2 million deaths last year.  They also exclaim that TB is an eminent public health emergency.

According to Dr. Chris Dye (WHO),

“The overall trend for TB cases in most European countries is downwards, but in the UK it is going up and that is very worrying.  Parts of London now have rates as high as the highest found in the world.”

Paul Sommerfeld, director of the charity TB Alert, declares travel, migration, and poverty may play a part in the increasing number of cases in London and other urban areas.

Studies show that 43 districts in the United Kingdom have above average rates of TBIt’s reported that only five districts have enough TB nurses.

There is also a shortage of lung specialists–150 to 300 more lung specialist will be needed in the next five years to keep on pace with the demand for care.

An action plan will be published next year, according to the Department of Health and fresh supplies of the BCG vaccine to inoculate children and high-risk groups are arriving in the UK from Denmark.

The symptoms of TB include:

Chest pain

Bad cough that last 3 weeks or longer

Coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)

Fatigue or weakness

No appetite



Sweating at night

Weight loss

Contact your healthcare provider or state or local TB control office if you think you’ve been exposed to someone with tuberculosis.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) offer detailed information on tuberculosis at their websites.

About the author: George Zapo is certified in Public Health Promotion and Education (Kent State University). George provides informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles.

7 comments… add one
  • Susannah Foreman McAnnally

    George-thank you for more insight into this horrible disease that I did not think was an issue any longer. I was overseas and knew of it there, but never thought it was still a big issue. I will make sure to educate my children on it, as well.

  • Marian Gurowicz

    This is scary. Great awareness article since somehow I thought we had virtually wiped out this disease.

    • Thank you Marian.

      By the way, the only disease that has been eradicated is smallpox. All others are still mutating.

  • World TB Day

    World TB Day, 24 March 2014
    World TB Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the burden of tuberculosis (TB) worldwide and the status of TB prevention and control efforts.

  • Tina Bosela

    Great awareness George!

    This is scary to know how you can easily be affected by anyone who has TB.
    I work in a Super Market and didn’t even consider that I can get this disease.

    Like I said, this is scary. Thanks to you I’m aware of what to look out for and how I can protect myself.

    Thank you again,


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