Decline in tuberculosis (TB) cases in Estonia comes to a halt

Hospital bed,
Hospital bed, Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

The decline in tuberculosis (TB) cases in Estonia has come to a halt. According to the Estonian National Institute for Health Development (TAI), 129 cases of tuberculosis were registered in Estonia in 2022, 18 more than in 2021.

Of those affected, 90 (70 percent) were male and 39 were female. The oldest patient to contract TB was 91 years old, while the youngest 17. No children were diagnosed with TB in Estonia in 2022. The TB incidence rate was 9.3 per 100,000 people in 2022, which was up from 8.3 per 100,000 in 2021.

"In 2022, the decline in TB incidences has come to a halt in 2022 in Estonia and in many other countries in the European region. The rapid decline in cases in 2020 and 2021 was probably influenced by the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus, which is also why the number of TB diagnoses was higher in 2022," said Piret Viiklepp, head of the registries department at the National Institute of Health and Welfare.

The proportion of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) in Estonia, which puts the country among the highest in the European Union, remains a problem. In 2022, a total of 24 MDR-TB cases were recorded in Estonia, including 17 new cases, accounting for 28.3 percent of new pulmonary smear-positive cases in Estonia in 2022. By way of comparison, the rate in the EU as a whole for 2021 was 4.1 percent.

"Tuberculosis treatment will be concurrent with several anti-TB drugs and determined according to a drug susceptibility analysis. Treatment for drug-susceptible TB lasts from six to eight months. For drug-resistant TB it lasts between six months and one and a half years," explained Viiklepp. "TB control activities have proved sustainable - rapid diagnosis, early detection, access to free treatment, social support and motivation have also ensured good treatment outcomes."

Of the patients diagnosed with tuberculosis in Estonia in 2021, 78 began treatment, with 73 making a full recovery. Three patients passed away after contracting TB, while one disappeared from the system before a follow-up could be conducted. A further nine patients died before treatment for TB could be started. Three of those deaths were as a result of patients having other serious medical conditions, while six were purely due to TB.

Treatment for tuberculosis is available in Estonia to all patients who require it, including those who have fled from Ukraine to escape the war.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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