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“World Tuberculosis Day” is observed on March 24 every year. Sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), the one-day event aims to raise public awareness of tuberculosis – an infectious disease that kills millions every year – and the efforts made to prevent and treat this disease. The campaign is a perfect platform to generate alertness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. Regarded as a serious infectious disease that most commonly affects the lungs, Tuberculosis (also known as TB) is caused by a bacterium called “mycobacterium tuberculosis” – which spreads from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes. If untreated, the condition can become deadly causing several complications. Treatment modalities involve medications to reduce infection and prevent the development of antibiotic resistance. Pulmonologists and other infectious disease specialists treating TB patients can rely on medical billing outsourcing companies for timely claims filing and correct reimbursement.

TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. As per reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), each day, nearly 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 63 million lives since the year 2000. The one-day worldwide campaign aims to educate the public about the devastating impact of TB around the world and focuses on the importance of TB prevention and control.

Even though, TB commonly affects the lungs, it can attack other parts of the body such as the spine, kidney and brain. It is more common in people with weakened immune systems. Common symptoms of TB include – coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm), cough that lasts three or more weeks, chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills and loss of appetite. The risk associated with the condition is higher in older adults and young children. It can also occur in people who use injected recreational drugs and people who have not received appropriate treatment for TB in the past.

In most cases, diagnosing TB in its early stages may help manage or prevent the condition in a better manner. Initial diagnosis of TB begins with a detailed physical examination wherein the physician will check the sounds of the lungs and the lymph nodes for swelling. Diagnosis of the condition involves a simple skin test wherein a small amount of a substance called PPD tuberculin is injected just below the skin inside the forearm. The physician will check for swelling at the injection site (within 48 to 72 hours). A hard, raised red bump at the injected site indicates the presence of TB infection. Several other additional tests include blood test, sputum tests and imaging tests like X-rays and CT scans to confirm the presence of TB infection.

Treatment modalities for tuberculosis depend on patient age, overall health, possible drug resistance and the infection’s location in the body. Medications are commonly prescribed for TB infections. The treatment may be more complex for those patients who have a drug-resistant strain of TB. In such cases, a combination of antibiotics involving fluoroquinolones and injectable medications, such as amikacin or capreomycin (Capastat) are generally prescribed for 20 to 30 months. It is important for patients to complete the full course of treatment, even if the symptoms happen to disappear.

The symptoms of TB, diagnosis, and procedures/medical services provided have to be documented using the right medical codes. Medical billing services provided by reputable companies can help physicians use the right medical codes on the claims submitted to insurers. ICD-10 codes for the different types of tuberculosis include –

  • A15 – Respiratory tuberculosis
  • A17 – Tuberculosis of nervous system
  • A18 – Tuberculosis of other organs
  • A19 – Miliary tuberculosis

The World Health Organization chose March 24 as World Tuberculosis Day to commemorate the day Dr. Robert Koch who in 1882 astounded the scientific community by discovering the TB bacillus – the bacterium causing the disease. At the time of Koch’s announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the United States, causing the death of 1 out of every 7 people. Koch’s discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing TB.

The one-day campaign was first launched in the year 1982 by the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD). However, in the year 1998, an initiative named “Stop TB Partnership” was incepted to eradicate this infectious disease. The theme for 2021 World Tuberculosis Day campaign is – ‘The Clock is Ticking’. The theme conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders. This is particularly significant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put #End TB – progress at risk, and to ensure equitable access to prevention and care in line with WHO’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.

As part of the campaign, the WHO calls on governments, affected communities, civil society organizations, healthcare providers, and national/international partners to unite against preventing the disease. A wide range of events and activities are organized by various organizations involved in the “Stop TB Partnership”. Campaign activities include – community discussion groups (organized to look at ways to prevent TB), award ceremonies or other events (to honor the life and work of those who dedicate their lives to prevent and fight against TB), photo exhibitions (that showcase images to raise worldwide TB awareness), and charity events to raise funds for disease control (of TB) in countries that need assistance.