WHO report warns TB could come back with a vengeance, cites poverty and marginalization
Disease is developing resistance to antibiotics.
Tuberculosis (TB) is coming back, as predicted for years, thanks to new drug-resistant strains and a lack of medical infrastructure and resources among poor and marginalized groups. The World Health Organization says billions are needed to prevent a full-scale reemergence of the disease.
Drug resistant TB threatens the entire world and the WHO is calling upon all nations to fight the disease.
A report issued by the WHO in Geneva says the world is on track to meet UN goals of cutting by 50 percent the number of people dying from the disease as compared to 1990 figures. However, despite this progress, the disease is gaining resistance and may reverse gains made in the last two decades.
The WHO also estimates at about 3 million people around the world are being "missed" meaning they have the disease and are slowly dying from it, spreading it as they go, but remain uncounted and untreated. The primary reason is that they likely belong to an impoverished and marginalized population.
Mario Raviglione, the WHO's director of the Global TB Program said, "Far too many people are still missing out on care and are suffering as a result."
Only HIV kills more people than TB.
In 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people contracted TB and 1.3 million died. Although those numbers are a slight improvement from 2011 with 8.7 million infections and 1.4 million deaths, the WHO fears a reversal if the world does not keep pressure on eradicating the disease.
In many countries, respect for TB has faded, as it is largely regarded as a disease of the past and one that is easily treated in the rare cases it develops. This is untrue.
The WHO is asking that the world continue funding the fight by spending between $7-8 billion each year through 2015 to maintain the upper hand. Currently they say there is a funding shortfall of about $2 billion per year.
This shortfall is important, as are other problems which all exacerbate the incidence of TB in the world. Without funding, many cases go untreated which means sufferers are likely to infect other people and spread the disease.
Antibiotic treatment for the disease is common, but it is also developing into resistant strains that are impervious to modern antibiotics. The more antibiotics that are prescribed, the more resistant the disease becomes.
Finally, large numbers of the world population have no access to modern health facilities or healthcare, leaving them susceptible to TB and to spreading the disease.
If a fully drug-resistant strain of TB were to emerge and be spread by a population, it could lead to a resurgence of TB as a major killer. TB is highly infectious.
The WHO organization is calling for a redoubling of the political will to fight the disease, before it gains the advantage in the fight against science and medicine and becomes a threat to all.
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