Every day, around 200 people fall sick with tuberculosis (TB) across the EU/EEA, signalling that there is no room for complacency when it comes to TB prevention and control even in times of financial austerity. To mark World TB Day on the 24 March, ECDC and the WHO Regional Office for Europe release new surveillance data today.
The data show that the EU/EEA countries reported over 72 000 cases of TB in 2011, which is a 4% decrease compared to 2010. The average notification rate - 14.2 per 100 000 population - also represents a decline of pulmonary TB notifications. Notification rates vary significantly across Europe, from 2.8 in Iceland to 89.7 in Romania.
ECDC contributes to TB control by raising awareness and supporting EU countries, as director Marc Sprenger points out: “Our primary aim is to further reduce TB transmission by timely diagnosis and adequate treatment of pulmonary TB. This is essential for TB elimination. But we should not forget about the patients with extrapulmonary TB: this group is often neglected in TB control strategies. In 2011, 22% of all notified patients in the EU/EEA had extrapulmonary TB, which can affect any organ of the body making the diagnosis particularly difficult for both physicians and patients”.
Extrapulmonary TB: a challenging diagnosis
A case with TB outside the lungs is considered an extrapulmonary TB case. Symptoms may be diffuse and mimic other pathologies, delaying the diagnosis or making it particularly difficult. In 2011, globally 6.2 million TB cases were notified, 0.8 million with extrapulmonary TB.
In the European Union, one in five tuberculosis patients has extrapulmonary TB and unlike pulmonary TB, this form of the disease does not show a downward trend. Extrapulmonary TB is rarely infectious but contributes significantly to TB-related morbidity and can cause complications, lifelong sequelae and disabilities.