TB detection stepped up as deaths, cases rise


PETALING JAYA: Health authorities in Malaysia will be stepping up efforts to detect tuberculosis (TB) as the number of deaths and cases has risen in the country.

Last year, there were 25,391 TB cases (with a notification rate of 77.8 cases per 100,000 people), an increase of 3,664 cases (17%) compared with 2021, which had 21,727 cases (a notification rate of 63.5 cases per 100,000).

“Malaysia also recorded 2,572 TB deaths in 2022, an increase of 284 deaths (12%) compared with 2021, which saw 2,288 deaths,” said Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa in a statement yesterday.

She said in 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had estimated there were 10.6 million TB cases around the world, involving six million men, 3.4 million women and 1.2 million children.

“WHO estimated that the TB incidence for Malaysia should be 97 per 100,000 population. However, the incident rate reported in the country is lower than WHO’s estimation.

“So efforts to increase the detection rate through early screening for TB have to be stepped up,” she said.

In conjunction with World Tuberculosis Day yesterday, Dr Zaliha said the government aimed to raise awareness of the disease as well as increase efforts to control it with the help of relevant parties.

“We ask for health personnel, government agencies, private and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to work together and help achieve Malaysia’s goal of ending TB by 2035,” she added.

The theme for World TB Day this year is “Yes! We can end TB!”.

TB is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread through the air. While most of the infections involve lungs, other organs can also be infected such as the brain, spine, lymph nodes and guts.

The treatment for TB is a combination of antibiotics that have to be consumed daily for six months.

“People who are in close contact with a TB patient, an HIV patient, or suffer from chronic hip issues, lungs, or smoke tobacco heavily are encouraged to go for health screenings to detect this disease early,” said Dr Zaliha.

She added that patients who stop their treatment and refuse to be treated could have action taken against them under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

“The Health Ministry advises all patients to always follow the fixed schedule and to discuss it with their treatment supervisors if they face any problems or suffer negative side effects.

“The support of family, employers, colleagues and community play an important role in ensuring patients continue their treatment,” she said.

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