Health experts have put a price tag on savings generated by successfully battling the spread of tuberculosis in Europe at $12 billion.

“The cost of not implementing the plan for the Region would be US $12 billion in total,” the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

Europe’s 53 nations reach the savings if they implement a plan to fight tuberculosis, and “old disease” that is rising at an “alarming rate.”

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection which affects the lungs in most cases.

It’s usually contracted by breathing in air droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person. The people most at risk of the disease are the elderly, infants and people with weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Action Plan

The 53 countries making up the organization’s European Region on Wednesday will endorse a plan to combat more resistant strains of the infection – multidrug, and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.

“TB is an old disease that never went away, and now it is evolving with a vengeance,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

The European organization will provide technical support to its member states as they commit to implement the plan, she said.

Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is spreading at an “alarming rate” in the region, the WHO said.

Countries outside western Europe have extremely limited diagnostic and susceptibility-test services, but reported numbers of XDR-TB cass rose more than sixfold between 2008 and 2009.

Among western European capitals, London has the highest rate of TB.

The WHO says treating patients with MDR-TB patients takes up to two years, using second-line drugs and/or surgery.

2015 Targets

Europe’s plan is aligned with a Global Plan by the WHO. The targets to be achieved by 2015 are.

- Decreasing by 20 percent the proportion of MDR-TB cases among previously treated patients

- To diagnose at least 85 percent of estimated MDR-TB cases

- To treat successfully at least 75 percent of patients notified as having MDR-TB.