For the second consecutive year, the number of tuberculosis (TB) patients in the Netherlands increased. In 2016, 889 TB patients were reported, 27 patients more than in 2015, which is an increase of three percent. This is mainly caused by an increase of the number of migrants arriving from countries where tuberculosis is common, such as Eritrea and Ethiopia. Furthermore, some migrant TB patients have been living in the Netherlands for more than ten years. It can take several years before tuberculosis develops after being infected. These are some of the findings published in the Tuberculosis in the Netherlands Surveillance report 2016 that RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment publishes every year.
Tuberculosis is a notifiable infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium. Tuberculosis may be contagious if the disease affects the lungs. Its most infectious form (so-called open tuberculosis) was seen in one-fifth of patients in 2016. Almost 75% of all TB patients were born in other countries than the Netherlands, and predominantly I areas where tuberculosis is common, such as parts of Africa and Asia.
The treatment involves patients taking several medicines for a long period of time (often six months or longer). In 2015, 88 percent of the TB patients without rifampicin resistance, successfully completed the treatment. This percentage is slightly lower than the year before. The treatment results for 2016 are not known yet.
The bacteria that cause TB can be resistant to rifampicin, one of the most important drugs in the treatment of TB. The treatment of a patient with rifampicin-resistant TB is very lengthy and complex. Over the last five years, the number of patients with rifampicin-resistant TB varied in the Netherlands between ten and twenty. In 2016 this number was fifteen.
Tuberculosis and HIV
HIV infection increases the risk of developing TBs and, conversely, TB is often the first sign of an HIV infection. It is therefore important to diagnose and treat an HIV infection as early as possible The percentage of TB patients with a known HIV test result increased from 28 in 2008 to 70 in 2016, but it is still lower than the 100 percent advised by the WHO.