Thursday, March 24, 2005

Europe and Africa warned over TB

Always a major problem in U.S dentistry, the BBC has a story about this scourage in Africa and Europe:

The global war against tuberculosis is being successfully fought, but not in Africa and Europe, warn experts.

While most areas of the world have seen a 20% drop in TB since 1990, rates in Africa have tripled, a WHO report says.

The rise continues, fuelled by high rates of HIV/Aids and poor healthcare, and now a third of the 1.7 million TB deaths a year occur in Africa.

In Eastern Europe, drug resistance is to blame, the WHO says.

We have to face the fact that we have much further to go
Dr Lee Jong-wook, director-general of WHO

Russia continues to be challenged by resistant strains of the bacterium that cannot be treated with conventional, cheaper medications.

Dr Lee Jong-wook, director-general of WHO, said the report provided real optimism that TB was beatable, but said it also carried a clear warning.

"We have to face the fact that we have much further to go."

He said it would be impossible to beat Africa's TB and HIV/Aids epidemics unless the two diseases were tackled together.

Africa's TB problem
Image of Ricardo
Ricardo, 21, has been on TB treatment for seven months now in Kuito, Angola, where he lives

He did not realise that he had TB when he started coughing up blood and having daily bouts of fever

Ricardo sees himself as one of the lucky ones because he is getting the care he needs
Source: Medecins Sans Frontieres

"The methods, procedures and supplies needed are well known. They are getting impressive results wherever they are being used.

"The challenge now is to invest enough so that they can be used in Africa," he said.

Push further

Dr Mario Raviglione, director of WHO's Stop TB department, said in some regions over half of patients did not have access to TB treatments.

"We need to push even further."

WHO recommends that people with TB be tested and if appropriate treated for HIV and vice versa.

The Department for International Development has pledged £5m over the next three years to help fund work to halt the spread of TB.

Announcing the funding, Hilary Benn, the UK's International Development Secretary, said: "It is a remarkable achievement that we are on target to reach the goal of halving TB cases by 2015 in most places."

But he called for a stepping up of efforts to curb TB and HIV/Aids in Africa.

"We need to get stuck in for the long term," he said.

Other organisations called for greater awareness about the dangers of TB as the WHO released its report, which coincided with World TB Day on Thursday.

The international agency Medecins Sans Frontieres called for an effort to overhaul time-consuming diagnostic tests that are based on 123-year-old lab procedures, and introduce a better vaccine and a new generation of antibiotics.

The Conservative Party said it would make TB and public health a priority.

There needs to be more awareness of these highly infectious diseases here and abroad vis a vis the global transmission of people and their diseases.

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