TB still SA's biggest killer

By Drum Digital
24 October 2013

The rate of new tuberculosis infections has decreased internationally, but about three million infected people escape diagnosis, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report released on Wednesday.

"Quality TB care for millions worldwide has driven down TB deaths," WHO Global TB Programme director Mario Raviglione said in a statement. "But far too many people are still missing out on such care and are suffering as a result. They are not diagnosed, or not treated, or information on the quality of care they receive is unknown."

According to the Global TB Report 2013, the TB incidence rate in South Africa was about 1000 or more cases per 100,000 people.

In countries such as Japan and New Zealand 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people were recorded.

About three-quarters of the estimated 2.9 million people who were either not diagnosed, or diagnosed but not reported to national TB control programmes, were in 12 countries. South Africa was one of these countries and had the second highest number of such cases, after India

South Africa, along with India and Ukraine, recorded the largest increases in the identification of multiple drug-resistant TB patients eligible for treatment. The report indicated that South Africa had widening treatment coverage gaps, along with China and Pakistan.

Almost half of the world's TB cases are in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

By last year, the TB mortality rate had been reduced by 45 percent since 1990, according to the report.

Osamu Kunii, head of the strategy, investment and impact division of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said there was no room for complacency, despite this progress.

"We are now at a crucial moment where we cannot afford to let these gains go into reverse. We need the commitment of the international community to address a significant funding gap to fight this disease."

- SAPA

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