World Health Organization Tuberculosis Plan On Track And Producing Results In The Western Pacific

MANILA, Philippines, March 24 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- Preliminary reports indicate that countries in East Asia and the Pacific have won an important battle in the war on tuberculosis (TB).

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In a meeting organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Pusan, Republic of Korea, of TB experts and partners, Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO's Regional Director for the Western Pacific, announced that early reports suggest that the Region has achieved the TB targets set for 2005 -- providing access to DOTS (directly observed treatment, short-course) to 100% of the Region's population, detecting 70% of estimated TB cases, and successfully treating 85% of the detected cases.

''The 2005 targets laid the groundwork,'' said Dr Omi. ''Now that so many more cases are being detected and treated, we should see a real decline in TB transmission in the future. This major achievement can be attributed to the tireless efforts of health workers and national TB programmes in countries across the Region, as well as our international partners.''

China, which accounts for more than two thirds of the burden of TB in the Region, is at the forefront of the control effort, more than doubling its case detection rate in just three years. ''China must be commended for its commitment to stop this deadly disease, which kills 35 people every hour in our Region,'' said Dr Omi.

TB was declared a "regional crisis" in the Western Pacific in 1999, when cases reached unprecedented levels. However, thanks to the DOTS, which is WHO's recommended treatment programme, the annual number of TB deaths is estimated to have dropped in 2004 by more than 40,000 compared to the year 2000. The number of people who actually have the disease is estimated to have dropped by more than 500,000 people within the same period.

Reaching the 2005 targets was part of a 10-year effort to not only stop the spread of the disease, but to reduce the number of TB cases and deaths by half by 2010. During the meeting in the Republic of Korea, the assembled TB experts gave full support to WHO's new Regional Strategic Plan 2006-2010 to Stop TB, as well as to the new five-year plans of the countries with a high burden of TB.

The new targets for 2010 are to reduce the number of cases and deaths by half, compared with 2000. This will contribute to the achievement of the health-related United Nations Millennium Development Goals in 2015. It is estimated that doubling the average annual rate of decline in TB prevalence and mortality from the current 4% to 8% will be required over the next five years to reach the new targets. In order to do so, countries must confront the daunting obstacles that have emerged in the battle against multidrug resistant TB and the TB-HIV co-infection. Patients with multidrug resistant TB and TB-HIV are five to 10 times more likely to die compared to TB patients without these conditions.

The WHO Regional Office estimates that US$ 2.2 billion is needed over five years from 2006-2010 to fight TB. "This is no time to stop and bask in our achievements,'' says Omi. ''If we are to halve the number of cases and deaths due to one of the world's most devastating diseases, we must step up our efforts and continue investment in a TB-free world."

For more information, please contact: Dr Pieter Van Maaren Tel: +63-2-528-9706 Email: vanmaarenp@wpro.who.int

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CONTACT: Dr Pieter Van Maaren of WHO, +63-2-528-9706, orvanmaarenp@wpro.who.int

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