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The Worldwide TB Epidemic

February 10, 2015 in History

February 10, 2015 7:00 a.m.

The move to suburban living and the development of active public health programs have reduced the burden of tuberculosis — a serious, sometimes fatal infectious disease of the lungs — in many affluent countries. Many of us, however are not so lucky and are still faced with the ugly specter of TB which was so eloquently portrayed in the recent American Experience documentary, The Forgotten Plague.

Why is the “Forgotten Plague” still such a threat outside of the US and Europe? One of the principal issues is the sheer size of the problem. There are over 3 billion people who harbor the bacterium that causes TB, and while most will remain healthy, determining which of these 3 billion will develop the disease is – at the moment – not feasible. So countries with high burdens of disease are faced with making the decision of whether to treat those who are sickest, or to try and treat all of those who are infected. Of course, those who are sickest take most of the resources leaving a multitude of potential TB cases waiting to develop.

A second major issue is the length of treatment required to eliminate the bacterium that causes disease. The drugs that work against TB are not regular antibiotics; three months is required for even the minimum treatment and we all know how easy it is to stop taking antibiotics once you feel better, imagine keeping on with the treatment for 3-6 months. So compliance is an additional issue. The bacteria causing TB also develop drug resistance and so we need to take two or three drugs together. Even when the lengthy drug treatment is adhered to, drug resistance can develop, and this plunges us back into the pre-antibiotic era so harrowingly portrayed in The Forgotten Plague.

Why do we not just vaccinate against this disease? Well – we do. One of the oldest and mostly widely used vaccines in the world is a weakened version of a bacterium which is related to the bug that causes TB. This is the classical vaccine strategy which worked so well against smallpox but which is only partially effective against TB. This vaccine (BCG) is still used in high burden countries as it cheaply and effectively reduces the incidence and severity of infant and childhood TB. It does not however appear to impact the pulmonary disease among the adolescent …read more

Source: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

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The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom

February 10, 2015 in Economics

Two long wars, chronic deficits, the financial crisis, the costly drug war, the growth of executive power under Presidents Bush and Obama, and the revelations about NSA abuses, have given rise to a growing libertarian movement in our country – with a greater focus on individual liberty and less government power. David Boaz’s newly released The Libertarian Mind is a comprehensive guide to the history, philosophy, and growth of the libertarian movement, with incisive analyses of today’s most pressing issues and policies. The Libertarian Mind is the ultimate resource for the current, burgeoning libertarian movement.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES