A large international congress on tuberculosis will start in The Hague on October 24. In the Netherlands, the number of tuberculosis - or TB – patients is declining, but it is the most deadliest infectious disease worldwide. Every year more than 1.5 million people die from tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium and usually occurs in the lungs. The bacterium is almost always transmitted through the air, for example by coughing. The disease can be treated with a combination of different antibiotics. People can carry the tuberculosis bacterium for a long time without getting ill. This is called a latent tuberculosis infection. The disease can still occur later.
Annually, about 800 people are diagnosed with tuberculosis disease in the Netherlands. The National Tuberculosis Control Plan has set the aim to reduce the transmission of tuberculosis and the number of patients by 25% in the Netherlands over the next five years. The main new intervention to reach the target is to screen new immigrants and asylum seekers for latent tuberculosis infections and by providing preventive treatment.
The disease is difficult to control worldwide. A very effective vaccine is not available and disease can occur many years after infection. The combination with HIV infection and resistance to rifampicin, the most important medicine against tuberculosis, makes the control of tuberculosis difficult. In that case, the treatment of rifampicin resistant tuberculosis is complex and will take much longer. An HIV infection increases the risk of developing TB disease. Therefore, it is important to identify and treat an HIV infection as soon as possible. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have set the target of ending the Global TB epidemic by 2030.
The 'World Conference on Lung Health' will take place from 24 to 27 October at the World Forum in The Hague. During the conference, around 3,000 professionals from more than 125 countries will meet to discuss how to banish tuberculosis from the world. The theme of the conference is 'Declaring Our Rights: Social and Political Solutions'. This theme emphasises the importance of political involvement in the fight against tuberculosis and the threat of tobacco use, air pollution and other lung diseases.