South Africa has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis (TB) infection worldwide and has declared a national emergency in response to the disease.
TB is a source of stigma in the country, which forcibly quarantines patients.
Countries must weigh the civil liberties of patients infected with the airborne disease against the greater public’s health interests.
Blogger “Peter” writes about the new home care for patients with Extreme Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB).
The “Encyclopedia of Earth” blog argues that environmental risk factors must be addressed to solve the TB problem, saying that one group has helped families pay for an additional room to house the infected patient — thus lessening the chance of spreading infection.
Blogger “Rick Stark” criticizes South Africa’s practice of dumping infected migrant workers across the border, arguing that the “cruel” tactic only augments the spread of the disease.
For more on migrant labor’s role in South Africa’s tuberculosis problem, read a recent report: The mining sector, tuberculosis and migrant labor in Southern Africa [PDF].
Blogger “Ethan Zuckerman” posts the work of photographer James Nachtwey, who chronicled the lives of XDR-TB patients in Southern Africa in an effort to raise awareness and put a human face on the disease.
South African blogger “Ridwan” despairs at the average life span in his country, made worse by TB prevalence and poor medical care.
In the 1950s, New York confined uncooperative TB patients to Rikers Island to prevent the spread of the disease.
In 2006, about 9.2 million new cases of TB were reported — a 40 percent increase from 1990. The United Nations fears that the global financial crisis will limit medical research and the rate of infection will worsen still.
For more on the global health challenge that tuberculosis presents, see the World Health Organization’s 2008 report on tuberculosis control.