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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
TB emergency declared in Africa
South African TB patient
Aids reduces the body's resistance to TB
African health ministers have announced a regional tuberculosis emergency due to a sharp rise in the number of cases.

The declaration was made in Mozambique at a meeting of the World Health Organization's (WHO) African region.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Luis Gomes Sambo appealed for "urgent and extraordinary" action to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Tuberculosis, or TB, kills half a million people a year in Africa, a quarter of the global total.

'Unprecedented proportions'

The Aids epidemic is increasing the spread of TB, which affects people in their most productive years and kills some 1,500 Africans every day.

Despite commendable efforts by countries and partners to control tuberculosis, their impact has not been significant
Dr Luis Gomes Sambo
TB rates are rising in both Africa and parts of eastern Europe.

Africa is particularly hit because of co-infections with HIV and a lack of health infrastructure to monitor and treat the disease.

"Despite commendable efforts by countries and partners to control tuberculosis, their impact has not been significant and the epidemic has now reached unprecedented proportions," Dr Sambo said in a statement.

There have been no new tests or treatments for TB developed in decades and the ones that are available are difficult to administer.

Antibiotics need to be taken regularly over six months - and if an individual is carrying a multi-drug resistant strain, therapy is even harder.

BBC health correspondent Ania Lichtarowicz says the WHO hopes that by making TB a regional health emergency, it will put the disease back on the agenda.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how TB levels are spiraling in Africa



SEE ALSO:
Early humans 'may have spread TB'
19 Aug 05 |  Science/Nature
Tuberculosis
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes


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