By Kelly E. Wroblewski, Manager – HIV, STD, TB, Hepatitis Programs, APHL
Every year approximately 2 million people worldwide die from tuberculosis-related disease. Yet TB prevention and control too often receives scant funding and limited attention from government officials, health professionals and the public.
Observed every March 24 to commemorate the date in 1882 when the bacterium that causes tuberculosis was first discovered, World TB Day affirms the critical role of public health laboratory scientists in controlling and preventing the disease.
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released reports indicating that preliminary data shows a 10.6% decrease in reported TB cases in the United States over a one-year period from 2008 to 2009. While many factors, including potential underreporting, could have factored into this decrease, the numbers are still encouraging. Yet public health professionals know we must remain vigilant, for a decline in US funding led to a resurgence of TB cases in the nineties. Moreover, new drug-resistant strains of TB have emerged, making the disease increasingly deadly.
In 2009 APHL members made significant contributions to TB control efforts above and beyond their work in the laboratory. After several years of work by APHL members, the TB self assessment tool, Mycobacteriology: Assessing Your Laboratory, was revised and published in a new electronic format. Additionally, the TB Steering Committee developed and published a document, Core TB Services of Public Health Laboratories, which outlines the role of public health laboratories in TB diagnostics and surveillance.
Now planning is underway for the 6th National Conference on Laboratory Aspects of TB, which will be held in Atlanta, GA, June 21-22, 2010, in conjunction with the National TB Conference.
On this day dedicated to raising awareness of tuberculosis and enhancing prevention and control globally, APHL would like to recognize the members, colleagues and partners who persevere to combat this devastating disease.