World TB Day 2011 fact sheet

Tuberculosis and the WHO European Region

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease which spreads from one person to another by breathing the same air. This disease is caused by Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. One third of the world’s population is infected; however only one tenth of people infected become sick with active TB. People infected with HIV or suffering from diabetes or conditions leading to a weak immune system, are at much higher risk.
  • TB can affect everyone; however it is seen most frequently among young adults and is particularly linked to social determinants such as migration, imprisonment and poverty. Each year in the WHO European Region, more than 12 600 children (under 15 years of age) are notified as having TB.
  • In the WHO European Region it is estimated that annually there are about 420 000 new TB cases and 62 000 deaths due to TB, the vast majority of them in the eastern and central part of the Region.
  • Multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of the disease which is resistant to two of the most potent antibiotics. MDR-TB is the result of the inadequate treatment of tuberculosis. It spreads within the community and - due to poor airborne infection control in closed environments - health care facilities. Every year, around 81 000 individuals develop MDR-TB in the WHO European Region. Due to limited access to diagnosis, less than 28 000 of them were diagnosed throughout the Region; the top 15 high MDR-TB burden countries in the world are located in the WHO European Region.
  • Extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is a form of MDR-TB which is resistant to the most important second line drugs and with very limited chances for cure. All high TB priority countries have reported cases of XDR-TB.
  • In response to this alarming public health threat, the WHO Regional Director has established a special project to prevent and combat M/XDR-TB in the WHO European Region. In close consultation with experts, a five-year consolidated action plan is being developed to curb the epidemic.
  • TB and HIV is a “deadly tandem” because TB is a leading killer among HIV-infected people. Almost 14 000 TB /HIV cases out of an estimated 21 000 in the Region were detected in 2009 and were offered both TB and antiretroviral treatment.
  • The WHO Regional Office for Europe, in collaboration with other partners, is providing support to Member States in the prevention and control of TB and M/XDR-TB. This includes setting norms and standards, providing technical assistance, fostering partnerships, building capacity, creating and disseminating evidence, monitoring and evaluation.