Every Hour 30 People Are Diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB) in the European Region

The latest WHO/ECDC report Tuberculosis surveillance and monitoring in Europe 2019 (2017 data) shows that despite an overall decline in numbers of people suffering from TB, the disease remains a major public health challenge in the Region. Of the 275,000 new diagnoses and relapses, an estimated 77,000 people are suffering from difficult-to-treat multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). The European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries fare better, with only 1,041 people reported to have MDR-TB.

“TB is preventable and curable; the time to take action is now to end TB by 2030. If we don’t act rapidly and decisively, the drug-resistant forms of the disease will increase their hold on Europe. Despite the challenges and threats that we face, I believe that Europe has the full potential to lead the way,” said Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Even though tuberculosis is an ancient, preventable and curable disease, it still causes too much suffering and death to many people in the European Union and beyond.”

ECDC Director Dr. Andrea Ammon believes in the capacity of the EU/EEA to improve: “We can end TB by 2030. However, as the burden in the region varies greatly, we will need to tailor approaches on a country-by-country basis. ECDC will continue to offer tailored country support and coordinate efforts across borders.”

The recent United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB, held in September 2018, brought hope to the world as global leaders stepped up their commitment to end TB by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This political commitment now needs to be translated into action to end TB.

Proper and fast diagnosis of TB is essential. The sooner a patient is diagnosed, the faster their treatment can begin, easing suffering and preventing further disease transmission. The new report indicates that just over half of all newly notified TB patients were tested using WHO-recommended rapid diagnostic tests. To improve diagnoses and ensure appropriate treatment approaches, it is also important to have capacity at country level to rapidly detect drug-resistant TB.

Overall, the situation in the European Region is improving too slowly to end TB by 2030. In order to reach the SDG target on TB, new intersectoral approaches are required, current tools need to be used more effectively and a people-centred approach to care is paramount.

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