Expatica news

Alarm raised over super, drug-resistant TB strain

16 March 2004

AMSTERDAM — Health organisations have raised alarm about a new and dangerous strain of tuberculosis (TB) that has infected at least six Dutch nationals, two of whom have developed lung tuberculosis and are being treated in hospital.

The KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation has said the six cases represents a “large outbreak” and despite claiming the outbreak is under control, it also said GGD health clinics have refused to rule out new infections.

The new TB strain is especially dangerous because it is resistant to the two most common anti-TB medicines. Similar resistance is only encountered in patients who are inadequately treated or did not complete the full course of treatment.

The six Dutch patients are believed to have caught the infection from an East European patient, public news service NOS reported on Tuesday.

Patients diagnosed with “super TB” have only a small chance of cure. A spokesman from the tuberculosis foundation said tuberculosis patients in Russia have a 78 percent chance of cure, but those infected with super TB have a 10 percent chance of recovery.

The treatment of the multi-resistant TB takes 1.5 to two years and is extremely complex. The TB foundation estimated that the treatment of the six Dutch patients will cost hundreds of thousands of euros.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a Tuesday-published report that super TB represents a significant threat for the European Union. The illness is primarily found in former Communist-controlled republics, such as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The former soviet states are among eight Central and Eastern European nations poised to gain entry to the EU with Malta and Cyprus on 1 May this year and residents of these countries will thus in principle be allowed to freely move across Western Europe.

TB is an infectious illness that primarily affects the respiratory system. It is spread by coughing and sneezing. It kills 2 million people worldwide each year, WHO said.

Symptoms include a constant cough, tiredness, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, coughing up blood and night sweats. TB was still a much-feared disease in the Netherlands around the middle of last century, killing 7,500 people annually.

But a TB infection is no longer a death sentence and patients in the Netherlands have almost a 100 percent chance of complete recovery. Just 1,400 new TB patients are reported each year.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news