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From the Surgeon General
December 1, 1999

Tuberculosis—Battling an Ancient Scourge

JAMA. 1999;282(21):1996. doi:10.1001/jama.282.21.1996

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease of antiquity. Hippocrates mentioned it in 460 BC as an "almost always fatal disease of the lungs." More than 2000 years later, it remains a global public health emergency. In 1997, an estimated 1.9 billion people worldwide had active TB, with 8 million new cases worldwide, and 1.9 million died of the disease (JAMA. 1999;282:677-686). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that unless global control efforts are strengthened, between now and 2020, nearly 1 billion more people will be newly infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, 200 million will develop active disease, and 70 million will die from it. Currently, 80% of active TB cases are in 22 countries, primarily in Asia and Africa. Clearly, TB affects development in these regions, since disease rates are highest in adults of working age.