Canadian Lung Association

Canadian Lung Association

March 21, 2008 10:00 ET

The Lung Association: World TB Day Reminds Canadians That We're Still at Risk

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 21, 2008) - Tuberculosis remains an important health concern in Canada. Worldwide each year, there are almost nine million new cases of tuberculosis with more than 1.5 million people dying from the disease. The most concerning problem globally has been the recent rise of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) which has a high mortality rate associated with it. Closer to home, in Canada, about 1,600 new cases of active TB occur annually. Approximately 650 of these cases occur in Ontario, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area. March 24 is World TB Day, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness and mobilize support in the fight against tuberculosis (TB).

"TB is very much a current health issue in Ontario," says Dr. Jae Yang, TB spokesperson for The Lung Association and Medical Director of the Tuberculosis Clinic at St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto. "Global travel and migration means that our risk of exposure to diseases such as TB, which are often prevalent in developing countries, is as close as the next flight of arrivals. TB will not be eliminated in Ontario unless it is controlled in developing countries, which requires a global effort and the political will of industrialized countries."

Although progress is being made in the detection of new cases and TB treatment, further efforts by governments around the world to improve access to diagnosis and TB medications are needed. Research funding to develop simpler, faster drug regimens, rapid, more accurate diagnostic tools and a vaccine to prevent TB is crucial.

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 see his or her physician immediately. All cases of TB must be reported to public health.

Tuberculosis is preventable, treatable and curable. Within Ontario, successful TB prevention and control requires a strong public health system and referral of TB patients to specialized clinics. Research has shown that treatment by physicians experienced in treating TB result in better outcomes for patients. Directly observed therapy helps to ensure completion of treatment, avoiding the development of resistance to TB drugs. Drug-resistant TB is very expensive and difficult to treat. TB drugs are available free-of-charge, funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

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. 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 theme of World TB Day 2008, I am stopping TB emphasizes that stopping TB requires a combined effort of patients, healthcare providers, educators, scientists and communities. People with tuberculosis can become active participants in their own cure by taking all their anti-TB drugs as prescribed. Healthcare workers can stop TB by staying alert to the symptoms of the disease and providing prompt diagnosis and effective treatment. Scientists can contribute by engaging in needed research to develop new diagnostic techniques, drugs and vaccines. Educators can raise awareness of TB and communities can provide resources and access to effective treatment.

"Ontario must continue its support of the global fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and the Stop TB Partnership's Global Plan to Stop TB," says George Habib, president & CEO, The Lung Association. "This Plan sets out a roadmap for confronting the disease over the next eight years. Canada has many TB experts and we need the funding to keep them engaged in global and local TB control."

The Lung Association began more than a century ago in an effort to control the spread of tuberculosis. Today, the organization offers support and resources for both the public and health professionals on numerous lung health issues, including TB. To order TB literature, call The Lung Association's Lung Health Information Line at 1-800-972-2636.

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 cessation and prevention as well as air quality and its effects on lung health. For information, call 1-888-566-5864 or visit www.on.lung.ca.

Contact Information

  • The Lung Association
    Karen Petcoff
    (416) 864-9911 ext. 283 or cellular: (416) 275-6844
    Website: www.on.lung.ca