March 24 commemorates the 39th annual World Tuberculosis (TB) Day – a day to reflect on one of the world’s deadliest diseases that remains an epidemic in many parts of the planet.
One fourth of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis. In 2019, about 10 million people around the world became sick with tuberculosis disease, and there were about 1.4 million tuberculosis-related deaths worldwide.
Tuberculosis is spread from person to person through the air. It typically affects the lungs but can affect the brain, kidney, and spine.
“Cases of TB have been on a steady decline in the state and country,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. “There were 242 new cases of TB reported in New Jersey last year. This represents a 75.4 percent decrease in cases since the resurgence of TB, which peaked in New Jersey in 1992.”
The New Jersey Department of Health supports tuberculosis prevention and control in New Jersey by providing financial support to local health departments. There are six tuberculosis specialty clinics throughout the state, all of which are supported by state grants.
The physicians at these clinics are experts in diagnosing and treating tuberculosis, as well as helping patients who have drug-resistant tuberculosis and adverse events related to tuberculosis therapy.
Another tuberculosis resource in New Jersey is the Global TB Institute at Rutgers, funded by the CDC. It has been designated a Center of Excellence for training and medical consultation serving the northeastern states.
It offers state-of-the-art treatment, conducts research, and provides consultation, education, and training to physicians and health officials.
World Tuberculosis Day is on March 24 to commemorate the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that causes tuberculosis: Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These bacteria become active when a person’s immune system is unable to stop the bacteria from spreading and multiplying.
Babies, young adults, the elderly, those with HIV, and those with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis, including people with cancer, severe kidney disease, low body weight and those who have undergone an organ transplant.
For more information about New Jersey’s TB program and information about the disease, visit the NJ Health Department Website.
For more information on World TB Day, visit the World Health Organization.
Health professionals can call the TB program at (609) 826-4878 to learn more about consultations, referrals, and accessing supplemental public health services for TB patients.