Recent intensive efforts to improve collection and reporting of data on tuberculosis (TB) are shedding new light on the epidemic, revealing that there are almost half a million more cases of the disease than previously estimated. WHO’s ”Global Tuberculosis Report 2014″, published recently, shows that 9 million people developed TB in 2013, and 1.5 million died, including 360 000 people who were HIV positive.
The report stresses, however, that the mortality rate from TB is still falling and has dropped by 45 per cent since 1990, while the number of people developing the disease is declining by an average 1.5 per cent a year. An estimated 37 million lives have been saved through effective diagnosis and treatment of TB since 2000.
“Following a concerted effort by countries, by WHO and by multiple partners, investment in national surveys and routine surveillance efforts has substantially increased. This is providing us with much more and better data, bringing us closer and closer to understanding the true burden of tuberculosis,” says Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Global TB Programme, WHO.
Although higher, these revised figures fall within the upper limit of previous WHO estimates. The report, however, underlines that a staggering number of lives are being lost to a curable disease and confirms that TB is the second biggest killer disease from a single infectious agent. In addition, around 3 million people who fall ill from TB are still being ‘missed’ by health systems each year either because they are not diagnosed, or because they are diagnosed but not reported.
Insufficient funding is hampering efforts to combat the global epidemic. An estimated US$ 8 billion is needed each year for a full response, but there is currently an annual shortfall of US$ 2 billion, which must be addressed.