Honoring World Tuberculosis Day

(March 23, 2011)

TB PosterDid you know that the first voluntary health organization in America was originally founded to fight a single disease? That’s how the American Lung Association got its start, battling tuberculosis (TB).  March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day. Although TB is nearly forgotten by most Americans, it is far from gone, and is still a major threat to public health, here and around the world.

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s oldest diseases. It plagued the pharaohs of ancient Egypt1, and it still infects one third of the world population today.  At the start of the twentieth century, tuberculosis (TB) was the most feared disease in the world, and in 1904 a group of doctors and concerned citizens founded the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis.  Now known as the American Lung Association combating the spread of Tuberculosis is still one of the cornerstones of our mission.

TB is a contagious airborne infection caused by an organism called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.  TB is spread through the air from one person to another.

Despite popular misconceptions that TB is a disease of the past, tuberculosis continues to pose a threat to public health.  As recently as 2009, nearly two million people worldwide died from TB. While current TB incidence rates in the United States are the lowest recorded since national reporting began in 1953, the decline has slowed in recent years. The slowing decline of TB rates in the United States along with the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the disease highlight the need to maintain focus on eradicating TB through surveillance, treatment and prevention.

"We have not forgotten our roots,” said H. James Gooden, chair of the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association.  “The Lung Association continues to support TB research, fighting a disease that takes a heavy toll on the U.S. economy, with more than $1 billion in direct and indirect health care costs per year.”

Since 2002, the American Lung Association has supported TB research with more than $2.2 million in funding. The researchers supported by the Lung Association maintain their focus on tuberculosis and often go on to produce important future medical advances. Learn more here.

“This World Tuberculosis Day, the American Lung Association honors all those who continue the fight, through research, education and patient care,” said Gooden. “We look forward to the day when TB can finally be forgotten.”

Learn more:  Download a brief summary of the vital impact the Lung Association continues to have in the fight again Tuberculosis.

Take action today: Urge Your Representatives to Fully Fund the Critical TB Programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development.


  1. Journal of Clinical Microbiology January 2003, p. 359-367, Vol. 41, No. 1