A total of 417 new tuberculosis patients – most of them born in countries where the disease is endemic – were diagnosed here in 2011, according to a Health Ministry report released for publication on Sunday.

World TB Day is being marked here and around the world on March 24.

An estimated 8.7 million people, especially in southeast Asia, Africa and the western Pacific, were diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease in 2011, the ministry said.

The rate in Israel is 5.3 patients per 100,000 residents, but as 89.7 percent of them were born abroad, the rate among the Israel-born was 0.56 per 100,000. The prevalence of TB increased somewhat between 2010 and 2011.

Since 1997, the ministry has operated with the four health funds a national program to fight TB. District health offices work to identify people who have been infected and take action to treat and prevent infection.

Hospitals located in areas where there are large numbers of potential TB patients have programs to identify and treat them.

Ninety percent of those TB patients who undergo the treatment – known as DOTS (directly observed treatment-short course) are cured. It entails a cocktail of antibiotics. If a TB patient feels better and stops taking the drugs, the disease can return with a vengeance, thus they should be directly observed when they take the pills.

Failure to take all the pills can render the bacteria that cause the disease resistant to TB drugs. This occurs around the world, and also in Israel, but only a few isolated cases involved Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogens that were extremely resistant to drugs.

The ministry will mark the day with events for professionals who handle TB patients, including doctors and epidemiological nurses.

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