(Reuters) - The number of people falling ill with tuberculosis declined last year for the first time while the death toll from the disease reached its lowest level in a decade, the World Health Organization said.
In 2010, 8.8 million people fell ill with tuberculosis and 1.4 million died, both marking a notable decline compared to years prior, the U.N. health agency said in its 2011 Global Tuberculosis Control Report released on Tuesday.
"This is major progress. But it is no cause for complacency," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. "Too many millions still develop TB each year and too many die. I urge serious and sustained support for TB prevention and care, especially for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people."
About a third of the world's population is infected with the TB bacteria but only a small portion develop the disease.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Washington; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Bill Trott)