Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by bacteria that can affect almost any part of the body but most often attack the lungs. Like the common cold, TB is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs or even sings.

When exposed to TB, most healthy people are able to fight the bacteria by sealing it off within the body, usually the lungs. These people have latent TB where they do not feel sick and cannot spread the bacteria to others. However, in some cases the bacteria continue to multiply and make the person sick with active TB. A person with active TB can infect on average 10 to 15 people a year. If not treated properly, active TB can be fatal.



TB symptoms vary depending on which part of the body is infected. Symptoms for pulmonary TB, the most common form of TB, include a cough lasting for more than two weeks, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue.



It is estimated that roughly 2 billion people, equal to one third of the world’s total population, are infected with latent TB. One in every 10 of those with latent TB will become sick with active TB in his or her lifetime.

Although a preventable and treatable disease, in 2015 there were an estimated 10.4 million TB cases  and TB killed 1.4 million people. Moreover, TB is among the greatest causes of death among women. There were an estimated 510 000 TB deaths among women as well as 80,000 deaths among children in 2013.

In the WHO European Region there were an estimated 323 000 new TB cases in 2015, including 32 000 people who died from the disease.

Although anyone can catch TB, it affects mainly young adults in Eastern Europe and migrants and the elderly in Western Europe. TB is also linked to social determinants such as migration, imprisonment and social marginalisation.



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