Despite massive efforts from the WHO, Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases. It’s estimated that a third of the global population are infected with TB, and in 2016 alone it caused around 1.7 million deaths worldwide. TB is also known to be the main cause of death among those who are infected with HIV. Issues like the increase in the number of cases of drug resistance are a growing concern that may be reducing the benefits of current efforts.
With this in mind, the WHO has announced its plans to improve its prevention strategies, with the aim to reduce the number of deaths by 35% by the year 2020. With adequate treatment, TB is a disease which can be effectively managed, meaning it will no longer be infectious and cannot spread to others. Stopping transmission between adults and stopping cases of latent TB becoming active are among the organisations top priorities for the coming years. Identifying new cases and offering appropriate treatment are key strategies for reducing the number of cases each year.
The BCG vaccine is one of the most commonly used in the world. In countries that take part in immunisation programmes it’s estimated to reach over 80% of new born children and infants. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine is highly variable among adults, which is where the majority of new transmissions originate. The WHO plans to continue protecting children from the risks associated with being exposed to the disease by improving its immunisation programmes, as well as providing adults with other ways of protecting themselves from the spread of infections.
When it comes to slowing down the spread of TB, education is part of key initiatives to inform the general public and those who already have the disease. Helping sufferers to understand the illness and to use their drugs properly can help it from being passed onto others. The general public also need to be educated about TB, its symptoms, health options available and reducing the stigma that’s still associated with it.
Using chemoprophylaxis for the prevention of TB can significantly reduce the risks of those with latent TB developing an episode of active TB. Isoniazid is one of the main drugs used to stop the disease progressing in adults, however, like the BCG vaccine, the effectiveness of stopping transmission between adults can vary. The other main concern with the current treatment options is the rising issue of drug resistance. Despite these concerns, overall the drug is considered cost effective and can give good protection to those with latent TB and to stop it spreading to patients who are HIV positive.
Preventing new cases of TB is top of the WHO’s agenda. Current recommendation include proper ventilation, separate sleeping arrangements in households, avoiding public transport and education about respiratory hygiene for sufferers can reduce the spread of the illness. There has also been a focus on ensuring health care facilities are using adequate infection control procedures in hospitals and medical centres when treating those with active infections.