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How Seattle Can Disrupt Tuberculosis

In 2017, TB killed a total of 1.6 million people – the highest death toll of any infectious disease. In the last decade, however, TB has started to get the attention it deserves, particularly among health organizations based in the US city.

SEATTLE – A major report recently published by the medical journal The Lancet finds that a tuberculosis-free world is possible. While TB is not an issue that many in Seattle think about, many of the city’s leading institutions are actually doing a tremendous amount to reduce the 4,400 deaths from tuberculosis that occur each and every day.

TB is a contagious, potentially fatal infectious disease that destroys body tissue, particularly affecting the lungs. As an airborne disease, it can be spread when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or even speaks. Though TB is curable with antibiotics, if the medicine is not taken properly, an even more dangerous drug-resistant strain of the disease – which some call “Ebola with wings” – emerges.

Despite the scale of the TB threat, research funders and the pharmaceutical industry have largely ignored the disease over the past 50 years. The reason is as simple as it is indefensible: TB disproportionately affects the poor and disenfranchised, who often cannot pay for treatment.

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