World Stop TB Day fact sheet for the media

Fact sheet
23 March 2005

TB Infection and TB Disease

  • TB is a lung disease that spreads through the air, just like a common cold. When an infectious person sneezes, coughs or even talks, TB germs - known as bacilli - enter the air. The bacilli can remain in the air for several hours, particularly in crowded and poorly ventilated areas.
  • Although a third of the world's population is infected with tuberculosis, only one in 10 get active TB. Physical stress, old age and HIV/AIDS can increase the likelihood of developing active TB, which usually affects the lungs.
  • Symptoms of TB typically include weight loss, night sweats, fever and cough. A person with the disease, particularly those who tested positive with sputum smear are infectious. Microscopic examination of sputum is the standard diagnostic tool for TB. It specifically detects infectious pulmonary TB cases using three sputum samples collected from deep in the chest for testing.
  • Left untreated, a person with TB can infect an average of 10 to 15 people per year.

TB Situation

  • Western Pacific Region
    • Two million people develop TB each year in the Region.
    • The Region accounts for around one third of all TB cases in the world.
    • Almost 70% of the cases are in the 15-54 age group, the most productive segment of the population.
    • In 2003, around 990 000 TB cases were reported, of which around 455 000 were smear-positive cases (infectious cases).
    • Nine out of 10 TB cases in the Region are found in the seven countries with a high burden of TB: Cambodia, China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Viet Nam (case notification rate of TB all forms between 47 and 199 per 100 000 population).
    • Countries with intermediate burden of TB (with case notification rate of TB all forms between 25 and 80 per 100 000 population) include Brunei, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Republic of Korea, Macau (China), Malaysia and Singapore.
  • Global
    • One third of the world's population is currently infected with the TB bacillus.
    • Every year, a total of 100 million people get infected with the TB bacilli worldwide, some 8 million people develop active (infectious) TB and 2 million will die.
    • TB is the leading killer among infectious diseases. It accounts for 1 in 4 of adult preventable deaths.

(WHO’s Western Pacific Region encompasses 37 countries and areas with a total population of 1.7 billion, encompassing 21 countries and areas in Asia and the Pacific).

Targets and goals

  • Regional targets and goals were set for TB control this decade. Countries in the Region agreed to meet the following targets for 2005: provide 100% access to DOTS; detect 70% of all infectious cases; and cure at least 85% of those detected. Reaching the regional TB control targets of 2005 is an intermediate step towards achieving the regional goals of reducing by half the prevalence and deaths due to TB by 2010.
  • At the end of 2003, the Regional DOTS coverage had reached 90%. The Region has already exceeded the 85% cure target. The challenging target is case detection, with only half of the cases detected in 2003.

Key issues: Western Pacific Region

  • Case detection - The Region's case detection rate was 52% of the estimated cases in 2003. Improving it will require extending DOTS coverage, improving laboratory services, building links with the private sector, addressing the poors' needs, improving awareness of TB and identifying HIV patients with TB.
  • HIV-related TB - HIV/AIDS and TB form a deadly combination. Most people with HIV/AIDS in the Region die of TB. TB is the most common opportunistic infection in people with AIDS. AIDS is partly responsible for the global increase in TB cases especially in many African countries. In the Region, the TB-HIV situation is escalating and in some areas already serious. In Malaysia, the proportion of new TB cases with HIV more than doubled in just four years to 6.5% in 2002. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the proportion of TB patients who are HIV-positive has risen rapidly to reach 31% in 2002.
  • Drug-resistant TB - TB bacilli can develop resistance to one or more anti-TB drugs. This results from inconsistent or partial treatment of TB. A serious problem arises when TB becomes resistant to at least isoniazid or rifampicin, a condition known as multi-drug resistant TB or MDR. This is very difficult and expensive to treat, costing 200 times more than non-MDR cases. The problem is a serious threat to TB control. Hotspots (i.e. areas with high MDR) have been identified at the global level. In some parts of the Region, as many as 1 in 10 of the new cases are multi-drug resistant.

Sf/2.8. Press Release/TB Factsheet revised 14 March 2005

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