The quick spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis can be stopped only if transmission in prisons is brought under control, The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned.
"Tuberculosis is a silent killer that can?t be confined to a cell. It?s smart, resilient and growing deadlier by the day," said the ICRC?s health in detention coordinator, Raed Aburabi, ahead of World TB Day on Wednesday.
"It has adapted faster than we could have possibly imagined to existing treatments, resulting in a major increase in multi and extremely drug-resistant strains, which pose a very real threat," he was quoted as saying in a statement.
"TB can only be stopped outside prisons if it is tackled from within."
Overcrowding, poor nutrition and inadequate health services can make prisons a perfect place for the airborne illness to thrive and spread, leading to incidence rates of the disease from 10 to 40 times higher than outside, the ICRC said.
The contagious disease is then transmitted to the general population by prison guards, staff, visitors and the families of infected, released detainees.
The ICRC said it has been working with the detaining authorities in around a dozen countries, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, for more than a decade to bring TB under control.
Some 300 Azerbaijani prison inmates were dying from TB each year when the ICRC began working there 15 years ago, but that number has brought down to 20.
The ICRC said similar success had been achieved in Georgia, where they will hand over their TB-related activities to the authorities on Wednesday.