Tackling TB: a homeless man is offered a cure

10 January 2008

A physician examines Michael
WHO/Riccardo Venturi

Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne infectious disease that can be prevented and cured. People ill with TB bacteria in their lungs can infect others when they cough. In 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 8.8 million people fell ill with TB and 1.6 million died from it. If TB is detected early and treated correctly, infected people cease to be able to spread the bacteria and can be cured.

TB is primarily a disease of people living in the developing world: 98% of TB deaths are in low- and medium-income countries. But no country is TB-free.

In the United States, public health authorities provide a range of services to people with TB. At the heart of these programmes is Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) - WHO's time-honoured approach to treatment combined with patient supervision and support.

This is a story about Michael Berrian, a homeless man from Newark, New Jersey. He felt unwell for months before severe chest pain prompted him to call for emergency medical help. Rushed to a local hospital, and then diagnosed with TB, he is on his way to a cure with comprehensive care.

Read the photo story about Michael Berrian

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