March 24 – World TB Day

TB Bacterium

TB Testing

TB X-Ray

Today is World TB Day, which recognizes the anniversary of Dr. Robert Koch’s discovery of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis on March 24, 1882.  This may not seem like a big deal in 2010, but think about this:

  • In 1882, TB was the cause of death for 14% of the population of the U.S. That’s about 7 million people a year
  • Before we understood much about infections, this disease was simply called “consumption”, because of the physical wasting away that would occur before death
  • As recent as 80 years ago, the primary treatment for this disease was “fresh air and sunshine”, and patients were removed from their home to live in remote TB hospitals, or sanitariums, for months or years of recovery
  • TB changes have been found in 4000+ year old Egyptian mummy bones

The hardest thing about this disease is that a person can be exposed to infection, but not develop disease for decades.  That’s like getting a cold virus when you are ten, and not starting blowing your nose until you are 50!  Current estimates are that about 1/3 of the world’s population has been exposed to TB, and, according to the World Health Organization, a person dies of this disease somewhere in the world every 7 seconds.

Public Health agencies are working hard around the globe to develop new strategies to confront, and hopefully eliminate this threat to our health.  Our Student Health Services providers have the expertise to answer any questions you may have about this disease, and our nurses and laboratory do the most up-to-date testing procedures when indicated.  We also have our own x-ray department right here in our building. 

Come see us for any questions or concerns you may have about this disease.

Roger Miller, MD for BuckMD

Photos:  Public Health Image Library from CDC (