US Delegation Heads to North Korea to Combat Tuberculosis Epidemic

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Tuberculosis kills over one million people a year. In North Korea, The Eugene Bell Foundation of Washington, D.C. is working to stop the spread of the deadly disease.

The World Health Organization estimates that a person sick with MDR-TB, will pass the disease to six more people. If you use our work in North Korea as a benchmark and do the math, there is a major global issue developing.

A group of Americans is headed to a remote part of the world to combat an epidemic that, left unchecked, could create a catastrophic, global pandemic. No, it’s not Ebola and no, they are not headed to Africa. John Rogers, the Executive Director the Eugene Bell Foundation and his staff are headed to North Korea to fight a disease most think mankind conquered long ago: tuberculosis.

“Tuberculosis, mostly eradicated in the US some 80 years ago is on the comeback in several countries - what’s especially disconcerting is this deadly, airborne disease is mutating into drug-resistant strains that very few countries are set-up to detect, treat or control,” said Rogers. “My experience with this disease in North Korea, as the Executive Director of the Eugene Bell Foundation, gives me a unique perspective into some very scary scenarios if this mutated form of the TB continues to spread”    

The staff of Eugene Bell is preparing for their next trip in October to deliver life-saving drug cocktails that not only serve to save lives in North Korea, but prevent the disease from spreading to other countries. To complicate an already dangerous situation, tuberculosis has evolved to resist many of the drugs used to combat the disease. This particularly difficult strain is referred to as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB.

“MDR-TB is a very challenging disease to combat. Detection in most hotbed areas such as India, China, Russia, Mexico and North Korea is not very good and patients often with MDR-TB get treated for years with regular TB medicine that has no effect,” Rogers said. “While precious time is wasted these patients get sicker and they contaminate family and friends.

“The World Health Organization estimates that a person sick with MDR-TB, will pass the disease to six more people. If you use our work in North Korea as a benchmark and do the math, there is a major global issue developing.”    

While much the world’s attention is focused on combatting Ebola, the staff and supporters of Eugene Bell are focusing their efforts on keeping a deadly disease that already kills over one million people a year from making a global comeback.

You can learn more about the Eugene Bell Foundation on their website at http://www.eugene-bell.org.

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