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MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Cases of tuberculosis are increasing in Russia, and the rise has prompted fears that the disease could spread worldwide, Russian and international health officials said Wednesday.
Russian health ministry statistics obtained by Reuters showed that Russian infection rates were double to quadruple central European levels and said tuberculosis cases rose about 3 percent in 1998. David Heymann, the World Health Organization's executive director for communicable diseases, said humans could easily carry the disease around the world. "It is clear that human beings, like mosquitoes, can be vectors of disease," he told a news conference.
Statistics said nearly 25,000 died of tuberculosis last year among Russia's population of 147 million. Prison populations, especially in pretrial units, were especially susceptible to infection, he said. Russian jails hold about 1.1 million convicts and persons waiting for trial.
Russia's small but growing population of people with HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) were also susceptible, he said. Statistics, which included prisoners, said 76 in every 100,000 Russians were diagnosed with tuberculosis last year, up from 73.9 new cases per 100,000 in 1997.
Figures, not including prisoners, migrants and others, showed 56.8 new
cases per 100,000 in 1998, against 54.1 a year earlier.