Each year, we commemorate World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.
At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. World TB Day is designed to build public awareness that TB is still epidemic in much of the world and remains a significant public health challenge.
TB remains the world's deadliest infectious killer. Each day, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 54 million lives since the year 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 42 per cent.
World TB Day highlights the global effort to find, treat and cure the estimated 10 million people who fall ill with TB each year. This includes approximately 3.6 million people who don't get the care they need, often due to factors such as poverty, stigma, conflict and lack of access to basic health services.
The global theme this year is "The Clock is Ticking", which carries the notion that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments made by world leaders to end TB. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, in many parts of the world, the progress made to end TB has been put at risk. In line with the World Health Organization's (WHO) drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage more needs to be done to ensure equitable access to TB prevention and care.
Despite Australia’s history of success in reducing TB, there is no room for complacency. Global connectivity through migration means that TB will remain a public health concern in Australia until worldwide control of TB is achieved.
Australia supported the adoption of the Moscow Declaration to End TB in November 2017 which promises to increase multi-sectoral action as well as track progress, and build accountability for the WHO END TB Strategy.
Since the 1980's Australia has maintained one of the lowest rates of TB in the world. Nevertheless, 1,612 new cases of TB were reported in Australia in 2020, with 631 cases notified in NSW. This also included 9 cases of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR).
The NSW TB Program consists of a network of specialised TB services located across the state providing free, confidential, accessible and culturally appropriate services to all - to ensure everyone in NSW gets the TB care they need.
Further information on TB in NSW can be found on the TB epidemiology webpage.