Fighting Tuberculosis: The Clock is Ticking

March 24, 2021 Pam Schwartz

Tuberculosis (TB) is not a modern-day disease. Evidence of TB has been found in Egyptian mummies estimated to be at least 4,000 years old. Throughout history it has been known by other names, such as consumption, wasting disease, or the white plague. Andrew Jackson, Jane Austen, Eleanor Roosevelt and Doc Holliday are just a few of the notable names in modern history who died from TB

TB is transmitted through the air, from person to person, through activities such as coughing, sneezing, speaking, and singing. Not everyone who is exposed to TB becomes infected, and not everyone who becomes infected becomes sick. People who are infected but do not become sick generally cannot infect other people. People with weakened immune systems, very young children, and people who abuse drugs and alcohol are at highest risk for developing TB.  

TB is known as being a lung-related disease, but it can actually attack any part of the body, including lymph nodes, bones and joints, the brain or other organs. Drugs were developed in the 1950s to treat TB, and most people can be cured of TB. However, when not treated properly, people can die from TB or develop a drug-resistant form of the disease.   

On March 24, 1882, Dr. Robert Koch told the world about discovering the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the disease-causing bacteria that results in TB. It is on this day each year that public health professionals educate and raise awareness about TB and its impact on public health. Despite advances in medicine and in public health, TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, causing death in almost 4,000 people every day. Of the approximately ten million people who contracted TB in 2019, 465,000 contracted a drug-resistant strain. The incidence of TB has been declining in recent years in the United States but is still found in almost every state — and it affects minorities disproportionately.   

The theme for World TB Day 2021, is “The Clock is Ticking.” The message behind this theme conveys three things:  every minute 3 people will die from TB, every 10 seconds, 3 people fall sick with TB, and there is no time to waste when saving lives. 

Public health professionals conduct contact investigations (also known as contact tracing) to identify people who have been exposed to TB for assessment and possible treatment. The Maven team at Conduent partners with its public health clients to provide solutions that streamline and simplify: 

  • Contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed by infected persons and automate notification efforts 
  • Alerts to highlight when specific simultaneous infections (otherwise known as co-infections) are present 
  • Event linking to connect key data points for more in-depth analysis 
  • Outbreak management tools to help contain TB’s impact on people and communities served.  

Reach out to us today at maven@conduent.com to learn more or arrange a demo.

About the Author

Pam Schwartz

Pamela Schwartz is the Director of Public Health Consulting at Conduent Public Health Solutions. She has more than 15 years of experience in public health informatics, working in immunization information systems, disease surveillance systems, and prescription drug monitoring programs in corporate and government environments.

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