TWO MILLION Portuguese have already come into contact with the tuberculosis bacillus and, of these, around 15 per cent have become ill, according to numbers provided by Dr. Fonseca Antunes of the General Health Department.
During the fifth meeting to discuss infectious illnesses, organised by the Hospital Curry Cabral in Lisbon recently, Antunes said: “If people come into contact with the illness, it does not mean that they will become ill, but it is, of course, more likely to happen.” Throughout the country, there is “a huge human reservoir of the bacteria”, he added.
Worldwide, two billion people have come into contact with the disease, an infection occurs every second and eight million are now infected throughout the world.
In Portugal, new cases of the disease have reduced from five per cent of the European average to 3.2. However, Portugal is one of the European countries with the largest number of cases relating to its inhabitants. Porto and Lisbon are the areas with the most infected people.
“These are difficult times. Portugal is still a country where its people are at major risk of contracting tuberculosis,” Antunes said.
Plan to fight the disease
Pereira Miguel, high commissioner for health, confirmed that tuberculosis has been underestimated in Portugal. In an attempt to bring the number of infected people under control, the national health authority has created a committee to revise the National Plan Against Tuberculosis, dated 1995.