The Ontario Lung Association

The Ontario Lung Association

March 23, 2010 11:48 ET

The Ontario Lung Association: Tuberculosis Remains a Public Health Concern in Ontario

World TB Day is March 24

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 23, 2010) -

Attention Health Editors

Editors Note: There is a photo associated with this Press Release.

More than 100 years since the "white plague" or "consumption" proved to be one of the world's most devastating epidemics, tuberculosis (TB) remains a health threat both in Canada and worldwide. Globally, the number of drug-resistant TB cases has reached record levels according to the World Health Organization (WHO). To keep the threat of TB top of mind, WHO has designated March 24 as World TB Day.

The year 2010 marks the halfway point for the WHO and STOP-TB Partnership's Global Plan to Stop TB (2006-2015). Although progress has been made, there is an urgent need to do more, do it better and do it faster if the targets are to be met. Further efforts are needed by governments around the world to improve access to diagnosis and TB medications. Research funding is crucial to develop shorter, faster drug regimens, rapid and more accurate diagnostic tools and a vaccine to prevent TB.

In Canada in 2008, there were 1,600 new cases of active TB. One-third of these cases, 568, occurred in Ontario, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area. In Ontario, 1.5 new cases of TB on average are diagnosed daily.

"TB is very stigmatizing, especially in certain cultures," says Dr. Jae Yang, medical director of the TB Program at St. Michael's Hospital and Ontario Lung Association spokesperson. "People have lost jobs and much more by being diagnosed with TB. It is a very long treatment duration but generally speaking, the first several months are the most difficult due to the respiratory isolation that is required and the many pills that need to be taken. Even though the actual number of TB patients in Ontario has continued to slowly drop, drug-resistant TB is always a great fear looming on the horizon."

What is Tuberculosis?
TB is an infectious disease caused by the TB bacteria. It usually attacks the lungs but can also occur in other parts of the body. TB is contagious when it is located in the lungs or throat. Signs and symptoms of active TB disease are: a cough lasting more than three weeks, fever, chills, unexplained weight loss, night sweats and coughing up blood. Anyone exhibiting symptoms should seek medical attention.

Tuberculosis Treatment
Tuberculosis is preventable, treatable and curable. All medications for TB are available free of charge. Within Ontario, successful TB prevention and control requires a strong public health system and referral of TB patients to health care providers experienced in treating TB. Research has shown that treatment by health care providers experienced in treating TB results in better outcomes for patients. In addition, directly observed therapy (where a trained public health observer watches the TB patient take their TB medication) helps to ensure treatment completion, and helps to prevent resistance to TB drugs. Drug-resistant TB is very expensive an difficult to treat.

The Human Impact
There is a social stigma attached to TB. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, people with TB disease were isolated in special hospitals called sanatoria. Many patients remained there for three to five years. Children were separated from their parents and parents from their families. If the primary wage earner was hospitalized, the family could be left destitute. Many people with TB died in these hospitals and people began to associate hospitalization for TB with death. Although the sanatoria closed in the 1970s as a result of greater access to antibiotics to treat TB, this attitude still prevails today in many parts of the world.

One-third of the world's population is infected with tuberculosis and has latent or dormant TB infection. Treatment for active disease can often take months, even years. This can have a tremendous impact on an individual's earning potential during treatment.

The Lung Association's crusade against tuberculosis was one of Canada's first public health campaigns and has been credited with laying the groundwork for today's universal healthcare system. Death from TB has been dramatically reduced since antibiotics were discovered in the 1940s. For example, in 1930, some 80 years ago, TB caused 8,164 deaths in Canada compared to fewer than 100 in 2007.

How the Ontario Lung Association is helping in the fight against TB
The Ontario Lung Association's (OLA) TB Committee will hold its bi-annual TB conference for health professionals, TB 2010: What We Know and What Lies Below, on November 15-16, 2010 in Toronto. This is a popular conference, attracting healthcare professionals from across Canada. Registration information will be available this summer at

The OLA also has TB resources for the public and health professionals, including the booklet: Tuberculosis: Information for Health Care Providers, Fourth Edition 2009, that provides a concise summary of TB prevention and management information, based on the Public Health Agency of Canada's TB Standards. TB resources can be ordered by calling 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or can be downloaded at

About World TB Day
On March 24, 1882, Robert Koch announced that he had isolated and grown the tubercle bacillus, which he believed to be the cause of all forms of tuberculosis (TB). World TB Day is held each year in commemoration of Koch's discovery, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905. The World Health Organization (WHO) established World TB Day to raise awareness and mobilize support in the fight against TB.

About Ontario Lung Association
The Lung Association is a registered charity that provides information and funding for research to improve lung health. We focus on the prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease, tobacco control as well as healthy air and its effects on lung health. For information, call 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or visit

To view the photo associated with this Press Release, please visit the following link:

Contact Information

  • The Lung Association
    Karen Petcoff
    416-864-9911 ext. 283
    cellular 416-275-6844