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Tuberculosis Cases Declined to 8.7 Million Last Year: WHO

The number of people falling ill from tuberculosis dropped last year, though the decline for the world’s second-biggest infectious killer in Europe and Africa is not on target, the World Health Organization said.

About 8.7 million people were newly diagnosed with the disease, compared with 8.8 million in 2010, the Geneva-based United Nations health agency said today in an e-mailed statement. Deaths caused by the airborne bacteria fell to 1.4 million globally from 1.45 million, the WHO said.

While the rate of new cases and deaths declined in all six WHO regions, Africa and Europe aren’t on schedule to meet goals to halve 1990 levels of mortality in the next three years, the agency said. Only 20 percent of patients with a form of tuberculosis that resists treatment with multiple drugs have been diagnosed, the WHO estimated. The first new medicines to combat the disease in more than 40 years may reach the market in 2013, the organization said.

“We are now at a crossroads between TB elimination within our lifetime, and millions more TB deaths,” Mario Raviglione, director of the World Health Organization’s Stop TB Partnership, said in the statement.

The WHO report, to be published on its website, contains information from 204 countries and territories.

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