TB rates decline worldwide for the first time

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people getting sick with tuberculosis declined last year for the first time, while the death toll reached its lowest level in a decade.
In the 2011 Global Tuberculosis Control Report, the United Nations health agency said that in 2010, 8.8 million people fell ill with TB and 1.4 million died, both making notable declines compared to years prior. Nine million became sick with TB in 2005, while the death toll peaked at 1.8 million in 2003, Reuters reports.
"This is major progress," Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general said in a statement, according to Reuters. "But it is no cause for complacency. Too many millions still develop TB each year, and too many die. I urge serious and sustained support for TB prevention and care, especially for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people."
Approximately one-third of the world's population is infected with the TB bacteria, but only a small portion ever develop the disease. The TB bacteria destroys patients' lung tissue, causing them to cough up the bacteria, which spreads through the air and can be inhaled by others. If just one patient with active TB goes untreated, that person can infect an average to 10 to 15 people a year.
"In many countries, strong leadership and domestic financing, with robust donor support, has started to make a real difference in the fight against TB," Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general, said in a statement, Reuters reports.
The countries most noted for their progress in the fight against the disease were Kenya, China, Brazil and the United Republic of Tanzania. In China alone, the TB death toll fell by close to 80 percent to 55,000 people in 2010 compared to 1990.