Experts warn of TB pandemic in Europe

The WHO announced on Wednesday that multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are spreading at an alarming rate in Europe and could potentially kill thousands if health authorities do not halt its spread.

"The numbers are scary," Lucica Ditiu, the executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership told a news conference in London, Reuters reports. "This is a very dramatic situation."

Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's European director said that complacent has allowed for the return of TB and that failing to stop it now could result in huge human and economic costs down the road.

"TB is an old disease that never went away, and now it is evolving with a vengeance," Jakab said, according to Reuters.

Currently, TB kills approximately 1.7 million people annually, while multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB infections are spreading quickly, averaging approximately 440,000 new patients every year.

Fifteen of the 27 countries with the highest burden of multidrug-resistant TB are in the WHO's European region, which includes 52 countries in Europe and Central Asia.

Approximately 20 percent of the world's total multidrug-resistant TB cases are recorded in the European region each year, Reuters reports. According to the WHO, cases of extensively drug-resistant TB in the region increased six-fold between 2008 and 2009.