High TB Rates Among Children in Cape Town Should Set Off Alarms in Washington

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As the Obama Administration re-jiggers US foreign assistance policy in general and global health in particular, this op-ed by Dr. Robin Wood, a leading South African physician-researcher, highlights a growing—but little-noticed—explosion in tuberculosis in Cape Town. His startling research there, focusing on TB rates among young children, is a sign of the escalating threat posed by this ancient scourge—a threat that requires high-level attention from Washington.

Below are a few key points from the op-ed, which you can read in full here.

“My research at a clinical trial site outside Cape Town is finding TB infection rates of children at the highest levels ever recorded since the onset of TB chemotherapy in the middle of the last century,” Dr. Wood writes.

“By the time children enter school at age 5, 20 percent are already infected with TB. By the time they reach the age of sexual maturity, 13 years, 50 percent are infected. And between the ages of 24 and 28 — the years of peak prevalence of HIV — 80 percent are infected.

That’s why what is happening in Washington now is so important to me, to all of those fighting TB in Africa, and really to all of us: No area of the world is immune from this contagious airborne infection, which passes on the wings of a sneeze or cough.”

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