1.8 million died of tuberculosis in 2008

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that over the last fifteen years, some 36 million people have been cured of tuberculosis, and about 8-million tuberculosis cases have been avoided.

The information is contained in the WHO’s 2009 Global Tuberculosis Control Report Update. The Direct Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) strategy was given credit for the success.

The report added, however, that millions of people still do not have access to high quality tuberculosis care. The disease is second only to HIV/AIDS in the number of people it kills each year. About 1.8 million died of tuberculosis in 2008.

Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB Department, is in Washington, D.C. for the release of the report. He commented that “what we are demonstrating with this new report is that on the one hand we have fairly good benefits from the investments in TB control over the last 10 to 15 years and at the same time […] we have problems that persist and are possibly getting worse.”

“I believe that there is little commitment in many countries to expand rapidly and urgently what needs to be done for MDR-TB. Here we are dealing with a really serious urgent problem. We are talking about a half a million cases…emerging every year,” he continued.

The WHO official noted that only a small percentage, perhaps six or seven percent, of MDR-TB cases are even detected. “Only half of them are properly treated,” he says. “That to me is a tremendous delay and is a lack of [a] sense of urgency.” Unless more is done, he predicted that there will be severe consequences.

“Multi-drug resistant TB is the most serious form of tuberculosis because it does not respond to the conventional treatment that we give to patients with TB. The consequence is that we are just allowing this disease to spread unchecked in many parts of the world.”

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