The number of people with tuberculosis (TB) in the Netherlands increased slightly in 2021, reaching 680. This figure is 9% higher than it was in 2020 (622 patients). In 296 of the patients the tuberculosis was found outside of the lungs. There were 384 patients with TB in their lungs. Of these, 141 had open tuberculosis, the most contagious form. This is evident from key figures published by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
Over three quarters of TB patients in the Netherlands are from countries where tuberculosis is common. In 2021, most of the TB patients had been born in Eritrea (65), followed by Morocco (51) and India (50).
The number of reports of TB in the Netherlands fell dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. This was probably partly due to the lower influx of migrants, the reduced spread of tuberculosis bacteria and the postponement of healthcare. The Covid-19 pandemic in the Netherlands carried on into 2021, leading to further periods of lockdowns and measures to curb transmission of the virus. This may once again have had an impact on the figures for TB. Despite the increase compared to 2020, the number of reports in 2021 is in line with the overall downward trend in TB reports in the Netherlands in recent decades.
The long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on tuberculosis rates in the Netherlands will become evident over the next few years. RIVM will closely monitor these developments.
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium. A notification obligation applies to the disease. This means that doctors are required to report the disease to the Municipal Public Health Service (GGD). The GGD then reports it to RIVM. Tuberculosis can be contagious; when the disease is present in the lungs, for example.
Tuberculosis can usually be effectively treated with antibiotics. The treatment takes a long time. Patients need to take medication for at least six months.
Early detection of the disease prevents it from spreading to other people. In 2021, the disease was found in 11% of patients through active screening of risk groups, such as immigrants and asylum seekers. In 5% of the patients, the disease was found in contacts of contagious TB patients. The vast majority of cases (84%) were identified after the patients went to a doctor with symptoms.
World Tuberculosis Day
Thursday 24 March is World Tuberculosis Day. This day is intended to raise awareness of the worldwide spread of tuberculosis and efforts to curb that spread. After all, tuberculosis is still one of the main causes of death through infectious disease worldwide.