Tuberculosis in Tanzania

A bedridden man is seen in Dar es Salaam, where drug use is one of the main sources of H.I.V. transmission. Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

A bedridden man is seen in Dar es Salaam, where drug use is one of the main sources of H.I.V. transmission. Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

Tuberculosis continues to be among the major public health problems in Tanzania. The number of TB cases has steadily increased from 11,753 in 1983 to about 60% of the total population infected in 2011 and the majority of cases appear in young adult population groups aged 15-45 years. The rapid increase of tuberculosis in this country is mainly attributed to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but factors such as population growth and urban overcrowding have also contributed. That said, effective medication and treatment programs, free drugs and testing are starting to bring the problem under control. It is now the battle to inform people and take the stigma out of both diseases which will challenge the world in the future.

Tuberculosis or TB (short for Tubercle Bacillus), is a common and often deadly infectious disease caused by mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis in humans. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air, when people who have the disease cough, sneeze or spit. Most infections in humans result in an asymptomatic, latent infection, and about one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease, which, if left untreated, kills more than 50 per cent of its victims.

A third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with M. tuberculosis, and new infections occur at a rate of about one per second. The proportion of people who become sick with tuberculosis each year is stable or falling worldwide but, because of population growth, the absolute number of new cases is still increasing.

In 2007, there were an estimated 13.7 million chronic active cases, 9.3 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths, mostly in developing countries. In addition, more people in the developed world are contracting tuberculosis because their immune systems are compromised by immunosuppressive drugs, substance abuse or AIDS. The distribution of tuberculosis is not uniform across the globe; about 80 percent of the population in many Asian and African countries test positive in tuberculin tests, while only 5-10 percent of the U.S. population test positive.

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