Tuberculosis (TB) is spread through the air when infected individuals sneeze or cough. It primarily affects the lungs, causing symptoms such as blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats and weight loss.
Despite advances in treatment, TB remains a major cause of illness and death worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia. One third of the world’s population is thought be infected with the bacterium which causes TB.
Is it preventable?
TB is a vaccine-preventable illness against which millions of children have been protected thanks to the BCG vaccine but the disease has made a steady comeback in recent years.
Since the 1980s, global rates of TB have increased, fuelled by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the TB bacteria.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that in the European Region alone, TB causes 49 new cases and kills seven people every hour. The Organisation has launched an action plan for combating TB in Europe.
Of particular concern to health authorities in Europe is the rise in drug-resistant TB which according to the WHO is spreading at an alarming rate and threatens the lives of thousands of people.