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World Tuberculosis Day Focuses on Easily Cured Disease that Mostly Strikes Developing Countries - 2003-03-24

March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day. The World Health Organization reports that during the past 10 years, more than 10 million tuberculosis patients have been cured of this often fatal disease thanks to a simple, inexpensive treatment. More than 90 percent of those cured live in developing countries.

The World Health Organization says of all the infectious diseases in the world that are curable, tuberculosis is the most lethal. About two million people a year die from TB, and most of these deaths are in developing countries.

But World Health Organization officials say millions of lives are being saved in countries that are implementing what they call the DOTS strategy, which involves several elements, including a commitment by governments to follow the program. It also provides for careful monitoring of TB patients by medical personnel.

One of the health organization's TB control expert, Marcos Espinal, said DOTS is both inexpensive and effective. "The treatment for TB could cost as cheap as $10 for the whole of six months of treatment. The strategy has proven that it is very easy to implement and we have several examples of successful stories," Dr. Espinal said.

Dr. Espinal said 155 countries have adopted the DOTS treatment. While advances have been made in saving lives and reducing the spread of TB infection in all these countries, he said progress is especially significant in China, India, Vietnam and Peru.

The World Health Organization reports TB is most prevalent in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where it is closely linked to HIV/AIDS and poverty. The health organization also says there has been an alarming increase in TB infections related to HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe.