On TB's Trail in Liberia
A single book tells the story of tuberculosis in Liberia. The ragged hardcover sits on a shelf in a Ministry of Health office in the capital of Monrovia. In it, hand-drawn charts list patient names, ages, vital signs, contact information, treatment dates.
To those fluent in epidemiology, The National Leprosy and TB Control Program Ledger reads like a horror story. An estimated 22,000 people in Liberia are sick with TB. (Similarly sized Costa Rica has 650 cases.) And only five percent are currently on treatment, leaving the respiratory infection to slowly eat away at the lungs of some 19,000 people. Even worse, as featured prominently in the Ledger, 25 of the untreated patients are known to have a nasty, rare, and contagious strain of the bacteria known as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB.