In 2013, 64 844 tuberculosis cases were reported by 30 EU/EEA Member States, according to new data published today by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The notification rate of 12.7 per 100 000 population observed in 2013 constitutes a 6% decrease compared to the previous year, when some 68 000 cases were notified.
The overall downward trend within the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) is influenced by a marked decline of TB in high-incidence countries such as Romania, which accounts for 26% of all reported cases in the EU/EEA, whereas in some low-incidence countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden, notification rates are actually going up.
“Our data show a Europe in need of tailored interventions which target each country’s settings”, says ECDC Director Marc Sprenger ahead of World TB Day. Despite historically low numbers and a significant decline over the last ten years, the EU/EEA countries are not all progressing in the same way and face specific challenges in their TB control efforts. In most low-incidence countries, rates are stable or going down only very slowly and the majority of patients are of foreign-origin. Countries with high incidence overall face higher rates of re-infection and relapses and report many more multidrug-resistant (MDR TB) cases.
According to the new data, only 4% of TB cases tested for drug-resistance are MDR TB. However, treatment success rates for these cases are very low and have remained unchanged over the past 10 years.
TB elimination still too far away
“At the current pace of an annual 6% decline, the EU/EEA will only be free of tuberculosis in the next century. In order to achieve elimination by 2050 for example, we would have to cut down cases at least twice as fast”, warns Sprenger. In order to achieve TB elimination, current tools and interventions like early diagnosis, correct treatment and contact tracing have to be used more efficiently. In a next step, the currently available tools have to be complemented by new and more effective ones, including better diagnostic tools, shorter treatment and an effective vaccine.
ECDC working with countries
The goal of TB prevention and control will be one of the main topics of the first Ministerial Conference on TB and MDR TB, to be held in Riga on 30-31 March under the Latvian EU Council Presidency, and where ECDC will be participating. On 1-2 April, a technical meeting organized by ECDC and the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control of Latvia will discuss how to address TB and MDR TB in high-priority countries.