TB Epidemic At Critical
Level In Ukraine
By Niles Lathem
KIEV (Reuters) - A fast-spreading tuberculosis epidemic has reached a critical stage in Ukraine, a senior health ministry official said on Wednesday.
"At the moment, the situation is very difficult and threatening," Deputy Health Minister Victor Veselsky said at the launch of a Red Cross program on fighting TB.
"Tuberculosis is a threat to national security, and this problem should be resolved at the highest level."
He said 55 Ukrainians in every 100,000 now suffered from the infectious disease, which claims 8,000 lives a year.
Of the 532,000 Ukrainians infected with the bacterium, almost 114,000 have the more dangerous "active" form.
"What is extremely worrying is the number of children infected," Veselsky said. "Unfortunately, the situation is unlikely to improve in the short term."
The number of children with TB has increased by 54.5 percent in the last five years. TB is caused by an airborne bacterium that attacks the lungs, causing painful coughing, emaciation, sweating and dramatic changes in body temperature. It thrives in poorly ventilated areas but can be treated by chemotherapy or prevented by vaccination.
After being brought under control for a few decades, it is making a comeback in many ex-Soviet states, largely due to low living standards.
Veselsky said the disease most often infected the poor, including vagrants, illegal immigrants, refugees and prisoners.
The Ukrainian Red Cross Society said TB killed one person every 25 minutes in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Russia.