RKI warns of tuberculosis in Germany

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Tuberculosis is also a serious illness in Germany

Tuberculosis is one of the diseases that were actually considered to have been almost eliminated in Germany. But despite declining new cases, tuberculosis remains a serious disease in Germany, warns the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin.

Although the tuberculosis cases declined again in 2009, the trend slowed down significantly, explained the RKI expert, Walter Haas on Monday in Berlin. Thousands of people in Germany still develop tuberculosis every year. According to the RKI, tuberculosis is particularly dangerous for children because the disease often takes a very severe course and can lead to permanent disabilities.

Tuberculosis, the world's deadliest infectious disease According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis is the most dangerous infectious disease worldwide with around 9.4 million diseases and 1.8 million deaths annually and is responsible for most deaths. Bacterial infection is caused by different types of mycobacteria and most often affects the lungs in humans. According to WHO figures, tuberculosis is still relatively widespread, particularly in Asia and Africa. In Africa, tuberculosis is still a major problem, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Tuberculosis is still a widespread disease in some Eastern European countries. The head of the National Reference Center for Mycobacteria, Sabine Rüsch-Gerdes, explained that "we live with our German tuberculosis numbers" compared to Eastern Europe "on an island of the blessed". Nevertheless, the 4,444 cases of tuberculosis (154 fatalities) recorded by the RKI in 2009 are a sign that the disease still poses a serious health risk in Germany.

Tuberculosis diseases declining in Germany Compared to the previous year, the number of tuberculosis diseases decreased by 68 cases, whereby the declining trend of recent years has continued to slow down significantly, however, the experts at the RKI explained. Overall, the number of tuberculosis cases is declining significantly more slowly than before and the WHO guidelines for halving tuberculosis cases by 2015 are unlikely to be achieved in this country either, the RKI warned. The RKI traditionally sees itself as having a special responsibility in combating tuberculosis, since the pathogen was discovered in 1882 by the institute's eponym, Robert Koch. Today, a good third of lung tuberculosis in Germany is caused by a particularly contagious pathogen, which makes treatment considerably more difficult and increases the risk of spreading again, warned the RKI.

Tuberculosis is extremely contagious According to the experts at the RKI, the lack of medical expertise in the treatment of tuberculosis is also a problem. "General practitioners in particular often lack experience with this disease today," emphasized RKI expert Walter Haas. The President of the RKI, Reinhard Burger, added that the diminishing experience with tuberculosis treatment increases the risk of massive spread of the pathogen and cited as an example a case from northern Germany in which a total of 37 people were infected with tuberculosis based on an illness . Tuberculosis is usually transmitted from person to person through the so-called droplet infection, whereby infected people expel the pathogens by coughing as aerosols (tiny droplets in the air) and these are absorbed by their fellow human beings. The pathogens can stay in the air for hours, so that there is an increased risk of transmission, especially for many people in confined spaces and poor hygiene. After a corresponding diagnosis, tuberculosis can usually be successfully combated with the help of antibiotics for months. However, the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant pathogens is a growing problem, according to the RKI experts.

Increase in tuberculosis diseases in children When developing tuberculosis diseases in Germany, the RKI experts are particularly concerned about the growing spread of the particularly contagious form of tuberculosis and the increase in the area of ​​tuberculosis diseases in children. The number of children with tuberculosis has risen again since 2008 and this trend continues in the preliminary figures for 2010, warned RKI expert Walter Haas. To get the problem under control, the RKI demands better control of the infectious disease and, among other things, more advanced training for doctors. The population must also be better informed, stressed the RKI President Burger. For example, World Tuberculosis Day on March 24 is well suited.

Symptoms of tuberculosis A tuberculosis disease usually goes through several stages, whereby the pathogens can lie dormant in the body of those affected for years before the disease breaks out. In general, different phases of tuberculosis can be distinguished, whereby the risk of infection from those affected can be extremely different. The symptoms often only appear clearly after the actual infection and can, for example, lead to considerable impairments of the general condition, fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, cough and shortness of breath if the clinical picture is severe. In addition, meningitis caused by tuberculosis is also possible, which can result in headaches, stiff neck, impaired consciousness, seizures and fever and can be fatal if left untreated. If you notice symptoms or have had contact with a person who has been proven to be infected with tuberculosis, you should urgently see a doctor, not only to protect yourself, but also to protect your fellow human beings from possible infection. (fp)

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Video: Eradicating Tuberculosis. Andreas Kupz. TEDxJCUCairns

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