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The tsunami of tuberculosis

Ivan Bastian
Med J Aust 2005; 182 (6): 263-264.
Published online: 21 March 2005

The annual death toll from tuberculosis in the Indian Ocean region is 2–3 times higher than the toll from the recent tsunami

A major earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale occurred off the west coast of Sumatra on 26 December 2004. 1 The quake even caused the earth to wobble in orbit. 2 The ensuing tsunami hit countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The estimated death toll exceeds 220 000. 1 The human and economic tragedy was evident to all, and national governments and international organisations have mounted an enormous relief effort. Coincidentally, seven of the tsunami-affected countries (India, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Burma–Myanmar, Tanzania and Kenya) are among the 22 nations with the highest burdens of tuberculosis (TB). 3 Over three million new TB cases and 772 000 TB deaths occurred in these seven countries in the year 2000. 3 Similar annual statistics have been reported from these and other high-burden countries for more than 10 years. But the earth does not move! The human and economic toll is not appreciated, and an enormous global response is not mounted.

  • Ivan Bastian

  • Infectious Diseases Laboratories, Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Adelaide, SA.


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