TB rate goes down in past decade; universal health coverage key to faster progress
A new estimate by World Health Organization (WHO) for Western Pacific Region show a 14 per cent reduction in the incidence of tuberculosis (TB).However with 1.8 million people infected annually in the region, much more needs to be done.
On the World Tuberculosis Day on Saturday, WHO has appealed governments of all nations to provide citizens access to TB testing and treatment as part of universal health coverage.
“The TB rate is coming down in the Region, but it’s not happening fast enough. We need to do much more to achieve our goal of ending the epidemic once and for all,” says Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.
The region has seen progress, with TB treatment coverage increasing to 76 per cent in 2016 from 69 per cent in 2007. The TB mortality rate in the Region (5 per 100 000 population in 2016) remains much lower than the global average (17 per 100 000).
More than 90 per cent of new cases in the Region have been treated successfully,but drug-resistant forms of the disease remain a concern, WHO said in statement.
According to WHO estimates, one in four people with TB are not getting treatment through public health programmes. Action is needed to understand whether they are getting effective treatment in the private system or not at all.
TB is one of the top 10 causes of death in the world. When someone with lung TB coughs, sneezes, or spits, they can spread the infection.TB germs can remain in the air for up to six hours, making people in overcrowded areas especially susceptible.
Symptoms include persistent cough, bloody sputum, fever, chills and weight loss. The disease can be especially devastating for people with other health issues, such as HIV and diabetes, that weaken their immune system.
The risk of TB also increases for people who are undernourished, smoke tobacco, drink alcohol or are exposed to air pollution. A person with untreated TB can infect up to 15 others a year.
“While TB is highly contagious, it is also entirely preventable and curable,” says Dr Shin.More than 95 per cent of TB cases and deaths in the world are in developing countries, with 45 per cent of new cases in Asia, according to 2016 figures.