March 24 marks the global observance of World Tuberculosis Day – an awareness campaign aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating the infection and spread of tuberculosis (TB), a bacterium second only to HIV/AIDS in the worldwide death toll it has caused. This year’s campaign is simple with a plaintive refrain – Working Together to End TB.

Most commonly affecting the lungs, TB can be fatal if left untreated, and can also attack the kidneys, spine and brain of the infected person. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been great strides in combating the disease, but those efforts are not enough; in 2013, 9 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died as a result of the infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 335 new cases of tuberculosis were reported in Georgia alone in 2014, the most recent year of report.

Phyllistine Gardner, CDPH district tuberculosis coordinator, said that over the past few years, the rate of infected residents has been steadily increasing despite her team’s success in identifying and treating persons affected by TB because many new patients move into the area already infected with the disease.

“I think it’s important for Cobb and Douglas residents to know that if they have tuberculosis, or are suffering from symptoms of TB, that they can come in and get tested. We will make arrangements for them any way we can.”

Gardner and her team provide medications to patients suffering from TB at no cost, and they go above and beyond to ensure patients complete their therapy and get healthy again.

Tuberculosis is often misdiagnosed, cautions Gardner. When that happens, many affected by TB are treated with medication for pneumonia instead, allowing the disease to spread.

Residents of Cobb and Douglas, or surrounding counties can call (770) 514-2362 for more information about tuberculosis, getting tested and starting treatment. #EndTB