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On World Tuberculosis Day 2021, it is worth reflecting on the durability of an airborne organism that has killed billions of people since it was first recorded about 9000 years ago.

This year, nearly 1.7 million people will die of tuberculosis, that’s 4000 people a day – including 700 children whose lives will be gone – up 280,000 from 12 months ago.

Like COVID-19, tuberculosis is infectious and can be transmitted through the air; the bacteria is breathed in before attaching itself to the lungs.

Once inhaled it literally consumes the healthy tissue leaving only blood and liquid waste, drowning the carrier from the inside.

Like COVID-19, the disease is containable with vaccines, rigorous antibiotic treatment regimes and aggressive testing and tracing systems.

And like COVID-19, tuberculosis hones in on those who are most vulnerable.

While the bacteria remains latent in healthy carriers, it is rampant in poorer communities in the developing world, particular countries in our region like Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Vietnam.

But this is where the similarities between the diseases end.

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