TB mortality increased, case detection decreased due to impact of Covid-19, says KJ

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Tuberculosis (TB) mortality in Malaysia increased by five per cent and case detection decreased by 10 per cent last year compared to 2019, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, says Khairy Jamaluddin.

The Health Minister said now, due to certain similarities in the behaviour of these two infectious diseases, there have been inevitable consequences.

"Whilst, measures to contain the pandemic diverted the resources and impacted the essential TB services in the country, measures like wearing face masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowded places and heightened hygiene awareness helped to decrease the spread of TB bacilli,” he said.

Khairy said that in his intervention note at the 72nd Session of the Regional Committee Meeting for the Western Pacific (RCM72), held in Himeji, Japan on Thursday (Oct 28).

He said Malaysia has been very careful in making sure that the progress made in TB care and prevention is not reversed by the Covid-19 pandemic and has introduced new normal approach especially in finding and treating patients with TB.

"Virtual consultation and Directly Observed Therapy (DOTs) were practiced since the beginning of pandemic and concurrent testing for TB and Covid-19 were advocated taking into consideration the similarity of symptoms,” he said, adding that outreach activities were carried out targeting high risk groups and hotspot areas for TB.

Khairy said the disease remains a major public health concern in the country with TB notification rate (new and relapse TB cases notified in a given year) of 72 per 100,000 population and a mortality rate of 7.1 per 100,000 population last year.

He said Malaysia reported around 20 to 21 per cent of latent TB infections annually, which has the potential risk for transition into active TB in later years, but TB preventive treatment uptake is still slow which was around 60 per cent for 2020.

"Drug-resistant TB (DRTB) persists and threatens our health security. Malaysia will continue to strengthen the latent TB screening and will continue to provide TB Preventive Therapy (TPT) and ensure that DRTB is identified and treated appropriately,” he said.

Khairy said Malaysia is fully committed to achieve its target of ending TB by 2035 and has also developed its National Strategic Plan for Ending TB (2021-2030) in line with the strategy proposed by World Health Organisation Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO).

"On that note, Malaysia supports the Western Pacific Regional Framework to End TB (2021-2030),” he said.- Bernama

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