While rates of tuberculosis (TB) have fallen by 40 percent since 1990, 200 children around the world still die from the infection every day. The hidden epidemic is exacerbated in many areas due to lack of access to health services and inadequate training for health workers that may not recognize the symptoms of the infection in children up to 15 years old. The UNHCO assumes that thousands of young lives can be saved with better training and increased partnerships between programs that provide health care for the vulnerable age group.
Families that live in poverty are particularly vulnerable to TB but rarely understand the infection and the care required to combat it. Children most often contract TB from a relative or parent but may not be diagnosed because many countries use as outdated test that makes it difficult to detect the infection in young people. Although the therapy that can prevent children from contracting TB costs less than three cents a day, and treatments are available for 50 cents a day, under-diagnosis often prevents children from ever receiving this care.
To reduce the rate of children affected by TB, the UNHCO recommends that all children living with someone with TB be examined and treated for TB even if a definitive diagnosis is not available. Children who are at risk for developing TB should receive preventive treatment, and all health care workers should be trained to check patients for the signs and symptoms of infection. If these measures are taken, the half a million children that contract TB each year can have a healthier future.