For several months, French hospitals have been receiving increasing numbers of patients from Eastern Europe with a multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB).
The risk of contagion is becoming a serious concern for the authorities. The French Health Department says there were 92 MDR TB cases in 2012, 64 cases in 2011 and 40 cases in 2010.
Despite the increase in the number of cases, infections involving French people are still rare.
Data from France’s National Reference Centre shows that of the 92 cases until the last review in September 2012 only five of the patients were French.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO):
“Drug resistance arises in areas with weak TB control programmes. A patient who develops active disease with a drug-resistant TB strain can transmit this form of TB to other individuals.”
Most of the cases in the last review in France came from the former USSR, places such as Chechnya, Russia and Georgia. There was also a very slight increase in cases from Asia, for example China or India.
TB is spread when people who have the infection cough and sneeze, transmitting their saliva to the air. Health authorities note the risk of TB transmission among humans depends on prolonged and repeated contact.
If left untreated the disease kills more than 50 percent of those who contract it.
Photo credit: activists rally for higher funding for epidemic diseases in Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
More information (French) Des hôpitaux débordés par des tuberculeux d’Europe de l’Est