Healthcare Blog

Continue Funding To Eradicate Tuberculosis, American Lung Association Urges Congress

April 16, 2017

The American Lung Association marks World Tuberculosis Day, March 24, by urging Congress to continue our efforts in global leadership in eradicating this infectious disease. Each year, more than 9 million people become ill with TB, and almost 2 million people die. TB is predicted to kill millions more in the next decade.

TB is a disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. TB is spread through the air from one person to another.

"The American Lung Association was formed in 1904 by a group of doctors and concerned citizens to eradicate tuberculosis," Mary Partridge, Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association. "As the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, we played a critical role in developing and funding increasingly effective weapons to prevent, detect and treat TB, once the leading cause of death in the United States. By 1954, tuberculosis was largely controlled in the U.S."

Despite popular misconceptions that TB is a disease of the past, tuberculosis continues to pose a threat to public health. In 2008, there were 12,904 new cases of TB in the United States. In some locations it is thriving. Haiti has the highest tuberculosis rate in the Americas, and health experts say it is about to drastically increase. That country normally sees about 30,000 new cases of TB each year, but when the earthquake destroyed the sanatorium where most of the infected were being treated, several hundred surviving patients fled and are now living in the densely packed tent cities, most likely spreading the disease.

Without basic TB control practices in places like Haiti, drug-resistant strains propagate among the population. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report found that in some areas of the world, one in four people with TB becomes ill with a form of the disease that can no longer be treated with standard drug regimens. In sheer numbers, Asia bears the brunt of the epidemic. Almost 50% of multidrug-resistant TB cases worldwide are estimated to occur in China and India.

The American Lung Association is urging Congress to put the U.S. back on the path towards TB elimination by providing $220 million for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's TB program, which provides targeted support to federal, state, and local health authorities to detect, treat, and prevent TB, including drug-resistant TB, in the foreign-born population, among U.S. minorities, and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"As we mark World TB Day in 2010, the American Lung Association continues to work to protect Americans from TB," said Partridge. "In the past few years, Congress has passed important legislation to combat TB but funding is needed in order to eradicate this disease both in the U.S. and worldwide. TB is being diagnosed the same way it was 80 years ago and patients are being treated with decades-old drugs. Please join us in our fight by asking your representatives in Washington to fully fund efforts to modernize how we fight this longtime killer."

American Lung Association