After months of suffering fevers and night sweats, Anna Watterson was taken into the hospital coughing up blood and found out she had MDR-TB: multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis. She now faced months in an isolation ward on a regimen of injected drugs that left her nauseous, bruised and unable to go out in the sun.
Anna does not live in crowded squalor in some poor country; she was a well-off trainee lawyer living in London, England.
There are an estimated 200 yearly cases of MDR-TB in the U.S., Anna’s case being one example, with the documented cost of treating each case ranging from $50,000 to $500,000. And how does one “catch” TB? By simply breathing the same air – as in an airplane.
March 24 is recognized as World Tuberculosis Day because on this day back in the early 1880s, Dr. Robert Koch stunned the world with a report on his discovery of the bacterium which causes TB. TB, also formerly called consumption, was then raging through Europe and the U.S., causing the death of every one in seven persons.
Now we are being faced with a growing threat of hard or impossible-to-treat TB caused by inadequate global treatment of “regular” TB. It costs only about $20 to cure most cases of global TB. We need to support Congress’ 2008 promise to help fund TB prevention and treatment efforts.