- STOCKHOLM, May 26 (Reuters) - Tuberculosis (TB) has become the single biggest
killer of young women in the world, said a World Health Organisation (WHO)
study released on Tuesday. WHO figures presented to the first international
meeting on TB and gender showed unprecedented levels of infection and death
among women aged 15 to 44 with over 900 million suffering from the infectious
lung disease worldwide.
- In 1998 alone an estimated one million
plus women will die of TB and 2.5 million others get sick from the airborne
disease which is usually considered more common among elderly men. ``This
makes TB the single leading cause of deaths among women of reproductive
age,'' WHO said in a statement at the end of the two-day meeting in Gothenburg,
western Sweden. TB now accounts for nine percent of deaths worldwide among
women aged 15 to 44 compared with war which accounts for four percent,
HIV three percent and heart disease three percent.
- Last year 1.2 million women died of TB
with 449,000 deaths in South and Southeast Asia, 316,000 in sub-Saharan
Africa, 242,000 in East Asia and the Pacific, 66,000 in North and South
America and 48,000 in Europe. A WHO study from earlier this month said
2.9 million people died of TB in 1997, making it the fifth most common
cause of death with coronary heart disease and strokes the first with 12.0
- Dr Paul Dolin of WHO's global TB programme,
said these high levels of death and infection among women were going unnoticed.
``Yet the ripple effect on families, communities and economies will be
felt long after a women has died,'' Dolin told the meeting, organised by
the Nordic School of Public Health, Sweden's Umea University and the Karolinska
Institute. WHO said the type of people who suffer TB varies according to
the status of the country. In industrialised countries, one quarter of
all TB cases occur in the over-65s, compared with only 10 percent in developing
countries such as in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the developing
world, TB is mainly a disease of young adults with 60 percent of all cases
among men and women or reproductive age.
- Women are more susceptible to fall sick
once infected with TB than men of the same age. Women in this age group
are also at greater risk from HIV infection and a UN AIDS study in March
this year found 33 percent of new cases of TB were attributed to HIV infection.
``Among leading threats to women's health, TB may be the most affordably
controlled,'' said Professor Vinod Diwan of the Nordic School of Public
- ``Enormous losses to this disease have
prompted a search for factors such as gender that may help us to better
understand and better control the epidemic.''
- TB spreads through the air when infected
people cough or sneeze. Almost all TB deaths can be prevented.
- The purpose of the meeting was to draw
up an agenda for research into biological, epidemiological, social and
cultural differences in TB occurrence in men and women, and their access
to the TB treatment strategy DOTS which follows a patient through every
step of treatment to ensure high cure rates.