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TB Remains Serious Health Problem in Americas

May 1, 2003

TB continues to be a serious health problem in the Region of the Americas, according to Pan American Health Organization experts. Every year, the Americas report some 250,000 TB cases, with around 20,000 deaths. The highest case and mortality rates are found in the poorest countries, resulting in harm to individuals, families, and national economies.

In March, World TB Day 2003 highlighted the recommended DOTS [directly observed treatment, short course] strategy to control TB with the slogan, "DOTS cured me -- it will cure you too." Under the DOTS strategy, TB patients receive free drugs and remain under direct observation for the entire treatment course, thus ensuring that patients take all of their medication. Recommended worldwide for TB, DOTS cures patients, prevents the emergence of resistance to TB drugs, and reduces TB transmission. The DOTS strategy also includes five other key elements: political will for TB control, consistent supplies of drugs for all patients, diagnostic capabilities, training and supervision, and a registry system to evaluate treatment.

About 25 countries in the Americas are currently applying the DOTS method, and treatment success in those countries is approximately 80 percent, compared to 52 percent in countries that do not apply the strategy. However, many of these countries employ DOTS on a limited scale. Currently, only one in three TB cases in the region receives treatment under DOTS.

The organization's goal for its TB program is for all regional countries to implement or expand the DOTS strategy by the end of 2003, according to Dr. David Brandling-Bennett, deputy director of PAHO. This regional expansion is crucial for controlling TB, and above all for meeting the global TB targets for 2005. PAHO also wants to raise awareness among political leaders and policy and opinion makers about the implications of TB, especially for the economy.

Worldwide, TB claims more lives than any other curable infectious disease. Each day, more than 20,000 people develop active TB, and 5,000 die from it. Exacerbated mainly by the AIDS epidemic, TB is expanding at a rate of 3 percent a year worldwide.

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Excerpted from:
TB & Outbreaks Week
04.22.03




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