Europe under threat from measles, TB and drug resistant superbugs

A regional health report recently concluded that the Europe’s health is under threat from tuberculosis, measles, HIV/AIDS and drug resistant superbug infections.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control's 2011 report on the state of health in Europe is filled with worrying signals, which include the 80,000 new cases of TB infection annually, a persistent measles infection rate and a continued spreading of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to Reuters.

The largest health concern Europe faces, according to the ECDC, is the rising threat of antibiotic resistance and the growing number of superbug, or multi drug-resistant infections.

"The biggest threat we face is complacency about infectious diseases. The attitude that the battle against infectious diseases has been won must be continuously challenged," Marc Sprenger, the director of the Stockholm-based ECDC, said, Reuters reports. "This report provides plenty of evidence that microbes are still formidable enemies."

The ECDC annual epidemiological report was designed to provide a general picture of the state of health in the European Union so that public health policy makers can prioritize their efforts and make improvements.

Analyzing disease patterns and data takes a significant amount of time, so the report is generally based on information collected in the previous two years, but officials believe it still remains accurate, though admit the situation has probably gotten worse since 2009.

The worrying signals from measles noted in Europe in 2009 have now turned into epidemics in several countries. More than 30,000 cases have been reported in the region so far in 2011.

In September, the World Health Organization announced that strains of multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant TB are spreading at an alarming rate and could kill thousands unless health authorities act quickly.

The ECDC warned late last year that a multi-drug resistant superbug first reported in Britain in 2010 was spreading across the region quickly.                 

"In order to fight against infectious diseases, continuous investment in and improvement of surveillance of outmost importance despite times of economic recession across Europe," Sprenger said, according to Reuters.

The ECDC report identified several emerging diseases that could eventually pose a risk to public health. Indications are that West Nile virus may have become established in the south-eastern part of the continent and there have been locally acquired cases of previously imported diseases, including malaria, dengue fever and chikungungya.