TB and superbugs 'ravaging Europe'
As many as 1,000 people a day in Europe contract tuberculosis, and slow progress against the disease coupled with rising drug resistance mean the region is unlikely to defeat it until next century, health officials have said.
At current rates, the region has little chance of meeting a target to eliminate it by 2050, according to a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
"MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant TB) is still ravaging the European Region, making it the most affected area of the entire world," Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's regional director, said yesterday.
TB is a contagious bacterial lung disease that occurs mainly in areas of poverty and deprivation and spreads via the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. It is hard to treat, requiring months of antibiotic treatment, and drug resistant strains are rapidly gaining a foothold.
TB in all its forms killed around 1.5 million people worldwide in 2013 and the WHO warned last year that rates of MDR-TB were "crisis levels".
The WHO's European region covers 53 countries with a population of nearly 900 million, of which around 508 million live in the European Union and European Economic Area.
The WHO/ECDC report said the overall trend across the region showed TB rates falling in some high-priority countries, while the disease is fighting back in other low-incidence countries.