Saturday, March 24, 2012

World Tuberculosis Day

Teen with TB.  Photo by Dr. Erin Meier
Today (Saturday) is World Tuberculosis Day.  Not a day for celebration, but a day to learn and understand.  So what will I do to honor the day?  I didn't think organizing a rally on the roads of Kudjip Station would do much good.  And, I didn't know it was World TB Day until just a few minutes ago.  The best thing that I can do is to educate my friends about this terrible, and wide-spread disease.

When I lived in the US, the extent of my awareness of TB was doing skin testing on people who were planning to be food workers, or were getting ready to travel overseas.  I knew what to do with the positive test results--send them to the county health department!  That was it.  I encountered 3 or 4 positive tests in the course of my career prior to going to PNG.

Now, TB is a routine part of my daily life.  For instance, in seeing outpatients yesterday, I think I seriously considered TB as a diagnosis for 6 or 8 patients.  It's not unusual to start 2 or 3 patients on TB treatment in a given day.  I also see people who come in for other problems who are already on TB meds or have been treated in the past.

Most people don't realize that TB is not just a lung disease.  It can infect any organ or tissue in the body.  I have personally treated TB in the brain, intestines, pancreas, kidney, spinal cord, vertebrae and lymph nodes.  I could probably lengthen this list considerably if we had better diagnostic methods available to us.

TB kills indiscriminately, old and young, rich and poor, though the poor bear a disproportionate share of the burden.

So, here's what I'd suggest that each of my friends do to keep World TB Day.  Google "tb".  That easy.  Type a "t" and a "b" into your Google search bar, and then hit return.  Then pick 2 or three of the results to actually read.  Start with the Wikipedia article which comes up first. Then a couple of others.  Then, if you want to send a donation to one of the organizations that are fighting TB (and remember that Kudjip Hospital falls into that category), that would be fine, too.

Here's an article from today's news that you don't even have to google to find:  Sadly, this article contains news of the first confirmed reports or "Totally Drug Resistant TB."  There's a lot of work to do.

PS for medical folks:  When I asked my colleague, Dr. Erin Meier for pictures of "TB", I meant to say "pictures of people with TB", but she automatically thought of chest x-rays, and sent about 6 images.  She included the photo of the boy above.  Many of our readers do have some sort of medical background, and might find some of the CXRs interesting, so here are a few of those images:

Classic example of miliary TB