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Increased Efforts Urged to Fight Tuberculosis

I’m Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Almost two million people every year die from tuberculosis. Almost nine million develop new cases.

Experts say about one-third of the world’s population is infected with TB. People who are infected might never develop an active case. They might never get sick from the infection. But enough do get sick that the World Health Organization declared tuberculosis a worldwide emergency in nineteen ninety-three.

Southeast Asia has the largest number of new TB cases. But southern Africa has the highest rates of the disease, almost two times that of Asia.

Last week the W.H.O. released a progress report for World TB Day, observed each year on March twenty-fourth. The report praises twenty-six countries worldwide for meeting their goals on tuberculosis control. They include Vietnam and the Philippines. Both have high TB rates.

Still, the report says the number of cases worldwide is rising one percent a year as a result of the TB crisis in Africa. TB kills more than five hundred thousand people there every year. W.H.O. officials praised Kenya for emergency measures. But they say African leaders need to invest more to control tuberculosis.

TB is the leading cause of death among people with H.I.V. and AIDS. More than twenty-seven million people in Africa are infected with H.I.V, the virus that causes AIDS. People with H.I.V. lose their natural resistance to disease.

TB is a bacterial infection. It is spread through the air when a person with an active case coughs or sneezes. Possible signs include a bad cough for three weeks or more and pain in the chest. Others are coughing up blood and sweating at night.

Tuberculosis can be cured with medicines. In many countries, though, experts say incorrect or incomplete treatment of TB is creating drug-resistant forms. They say drug-resistant TB is now in almost every country and is hurting worldwide success rates.

In January, the Global Plan to Stop TB was launched. This is a ten-year plan. It calls for countries to invest fifty-six thousand million dollars to help nations identify and treat new cases. Officials say the first new TB drug in forty years could be ready in two thousand ten. The World Health Organization says the Global Plan to Stop TB, if fully supported, could save fourteen million lives.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Shep O'Neal.