Some may be surprised to learn that tuberculosis is in our midst after reading that a waitress at the Harborplace Hooters has active TB ("Hooters waitress allegedly contracts tuberculosis at Inner Harbor restaurant," June 7).
Although TB may evoke Edgar Allen Poe and great literary giants who suffered from the disease in the past, there are more people infected now than at any time in history. Globally, especially in parts of Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, TB is growing more complex and difficult to diagnose and treat than ever. In the United States, the disease has been in decline since the 1960s when drugs to treat it became available, but the global epidemic's ability to impact our students, health workers and community members cannot be ignored.
TheU.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreports that Maryland is among 16 states with TB rates that are higher than the national average. TB is airborne and is transmitted from person to person, especially within households. In our globalized world, TB is easily carried by travelers. There are varying strains of TB circulating globally. Another form gaining ground is multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), which requires a patient to take a 12-18 month regimen of drugs that are expensive and difficult for a patient to tolerate.
Prevention with new vaccines is the only way to truly make TB a thing of history. Two Rockville-based research groups, along with a global network of researchers, are working to develop new TB vaccines, and two are in pivotal large-scale clinical trials today. There is still much work to be done, but we expect that future wide-scale distribution of new TB vaccines in countries hardest hit coupled with domestic use for educators, nurses, members of the military and Peace Corps volunteers could protect our fellow citizens and put an end to future outbreaks in our backyard.
Kari Stoever,Washington, D.C.