Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread from person-to-person via the air but only when the infected person has active TB. Thus, there are about 10 to 15 million persons living in the United States who are infected with TB, all with the potential of developing active TB in the future.
In 1999, there were 17,528 cases of active TB reported in the United States, down from 18,361 cases in 1998. This five percent decline in cases of active TB reflects the recovery of the country from the insurgence of TB that occurred in the mid-1980s.
However, there are still areas of concern for TB, including the appearance of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and the continued increase in number of active TB cases in the foreign-born population of the United States.
TB still kills more people each year globally than any other infectious disease. TB elimination remains a goal that attainable, provided the proper resources are allocated to the problem and it remains a public health priority. A partial commitment to the problem may actually be far worse than no commitment at all. Such half-hearted efforts may only serve to increase the scourge of MDR-TB.
Many of the components needed to move from TB control to TB elimination are already in place – a proven public health infrastructure, effective standards of clinical and public health practice, a coherent blueprint for TB education, and a framework for TB and vaccine research. As stated by the Advisory Council for the Elimination of TB:
An effective and sustained TB-elimination campaign in the United States could energize burgeoning international efforts to control TB worldwide and allow the United States to assume a leadership role in this global struggle.
Rifampin and Pyrazinamide treatment warning
Severe liver injury is being reported in patients using certain dosages of rifampin and Pyrazinamide in treatment of latent TB infection.