PENANG: The mother of all wars is the battle against tuberculosis (TB) as it is claiming two million lives a year worldwide, with the annual death toll in Malaysia reaching 500, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said yesterday.
Compared to those who perished during military conflicts, the death toll caused by microbes was far greater, he said, adding that healthcare providers must assume that all persistent coughs were due to TB until proven otherwise.
In Malaysia, 15,000 new cases emerge every year and TB tops the list of transmittable diseases,'' he said, adding that according to WHO, eight million new TB cases were emerging worldwide every year.
He said this when opening the World Tuberculosis Day with the theme TB Sufferer: DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy, Short Course) Cured Me, It Can Cure You Too at a hotel here yesterday.
Chua said Malaysia was doing well as far as steps taken to control the disease was concerned, adding that 79% of TB cases had been identified compared with the 70% by 2010 target set by WHO.
He also echoed the Health Director-Generals call to district health offices to provide health care to orang asli living in jungle fringes because the community was twice more susceptible to the disease compared with the rest of the peninsula's population.
The ministry has also adopted the policy to subject freshly diagnosed TB patients to HIV status test after counselling because of the global increase of co-infection of TB with HIV.
In 2001, 5% of TB patients were found to be HIV positive,'' he said, adding that addicts in Serenti centres and inmates in jails would be screened for TB.
Foreign workers also posed a threat as 20% of 400,000 were tested positive for TB last year.
The message that we want to drive home is that 95% of TB is curable with DOTS within six months to a year,'' he said.
After the press conference, Penang Girl Guides Training Commissioner Oh Ang Jong presented a RM3,529.24 mock cheque to Chua for the Malaysian Association for the Prevention of TB Penang.
The money was collected through a recycling project initiated by 12 Girl Guides from five schools.
Did you find this article insightful?