WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday September 25, 2018 – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says Caribbean countries have the lowest incidence of tuberculosis (TB) and are on the road to eliminating the disease as a public health problem.
According to a new PAHO report, ‘Tuberculosis in the Americas 2018’, the Americas is the region with the lowest percentage of new TB cases in the world (three per cent of the total). It says 15 countries in the Americas – 12 of them from the Caribbean – have low TB incidence (less than 10 cases per 100,000 people).
“Countries are adopting measures to tackle TB, but they cannot lower their guard and must redouble efforts, along with the collaboration of society at large, including the affected communities,” said Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health.
The report’s other recommendations for accelerating progress toward eliminating TB, especially in the countries with the greatest disease burden, include: promoting the study of contacts with people who have TB, especially children under 15; stepping up implementation of simpler treatment regimens and introducing drugs for children; reaching the most vulnerable populations and addressing social determinants, and ensuring that plans are financed with a country’s own resources rather than depending on external funds.
Between 2000 and 2015, deaths from TB fell by 37.5 per cent in the Americas and new cases dropped by 24 per cent. However, the rate of decline must be accelerated for the region to be able to end the disease, the report said.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 282,000 new cases of TB in the Americas, 11 per cent of which were in people living with HIV. In all, 87 per cent of cases were concentrated in 10 countries, with Brazil, Peru and Mexico reporting just over half the total. An estimated 24,000 people died last year from tuberculosis in the region, and 6,000 of them were coinfected with HIV.
“Ending TB will only be possible if we step up the reduction in new cases and deaths,” said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne. “We need to expand access to diagnosis and quality treatment for everyone who needs it and to address social determinants that affect health and favor transmission of the disease.”
Although preventable and curable, tuberculosis is currently the region’s most lethal infectious disease and its persistence is largely due to the serious social and economic inequities in the Americas. Since 2015, deaths fell on average by 2.5 per cent per year and new cases dropped by 1.6 per cent, but they need to fall at a rate of 12 per cent and 8 per cent per year, respectively, to achieve the intermediate targets for 2020 and continue to decline until 2030.
Ending the worldwide tuberculosis epidemic is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). WHO’s End TB Strategy, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2014, aims to reduce deaths from TB by 90 per cent and the incidence of the disease (number of new cases each year) by 80 per cent by 2030, compared to 2015 levels.