Lighting the Trail bridge red today and reflecting crimson in the river rolling below, is meant to shine a light on World Tuberculosis Day, symbolizing the disease is “in the red” in terms of progress towards ending it.
“Knowing that millions of people worldwide die from a curable disease like tuberculosis each year fills me with a deep sense of urgency that more needs to be done to stand up for those affected,” said Results Canada volunteer advocate, Garrison Dyck. “I am thrilled that Victoria Street Bridge will be illuminated in red as a reminder for Canada to reaffirm its commitments to help eliminate this deadly disease.”
More than 35 Canadian landmarks are participating in the day, standing in solidarity with those affected a disease that has been around for millennia yet continues to affect 10 million people every year. As well, the day is meant to hold government leaders accountable to the global commitment to end tuberculosis (TB) by 2030.
Tuberculosis was the deadliest infectious disease before COVID-19 emerged, and the pandemic has only worsened the global burden of this ancient epidemic.
Given the similarities between COVID-19 and TB as airborne infectious diseases, existing TB infrastructure has played a critical role in the rapid global response to the pandemic.
This diversion of resources severely disrupts TB care even in Canada and threatens progress towards the United Nations’ goal to end the disease by 2030. These disruptions to TB care have resulted in the first year-on-year increase in global TB deaths since 2005, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“My hope is that we catch the attention of leadership locally, domestically, and globally and work towards making TB programming a priority,” said Tina Campbell, from Stop TB Canada. “TB continues to disproportionately affect Indigenous communities in our region. Recently we have declared three outbreaks of TB; and to identify, treat, and prevent TB we need long-term solutions.”
While Canada has demonstrated leadership to end TB, a critical gap in investments remains.
Advocates emphasize that TB has long been underfunded and under-resourced. COVID-19 disruptions have exacerbated this issue, highlighting the need for increased investments in the fight to end TB.
As landmarks across the country are lit up in red this World TB Day, advocates are calling on the government to step up for those affected by TB at home and abroad, at a time when they need support more than ever.
This plea comes as the war in Ukraine is bringing devastating consequences for the control of TB, as people flee the country with the fourth highest TB incidence rate in the WHO European Region.
Prominent landmarks besides Trail’s Victoria Street Bridge lighting red on March 24 include: the Legislative Assembly of B.C., Sails of Light and Science World (Vancouver), Capital Regional District (Victoria), the Calgary Tower, Toronto CN Tower, the Olympic Stadium tower in Montreal, and city halls across Canada.
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis is caused by a type of bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The illness spreads when a person with active TB disease in their lungs coughs or sneezes and someone else inhales the expelled droplets, which contain TB bacteria. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
Active TB disease is usually treated with a combination of antibacterial medications for a period of six to 12 months. The most common treatment for active TB is isoniazid (antibiotic) in combination with three other drugs; rifampin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol. There is a vaccine called the BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin). However, with declining rates of TB in many settings and concern about the risk-benefit ratio associated with a live, attenuated vaccine, BCG is currently only recommended in certain high-incidence communities in Canada. It may also be administered to travellers returning for extended stays to a high TB incidence country where BCG is routinely given.