Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 2 News List

TB prevention needs a rethink

CASES RISING A KMT legislator and medical experts held a conference yesterday to highlight Taiwan's weaknesses in its tackling of the potentially fatal lung disease

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government's tuberculosis (TB)-prevention policy must be urgently reassessed to prevent the spread of TB, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) said yesterday.

Approximately 1,500 people in the country die each year from TB, Ting said, adding that 60.7 out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with TB every year while Japan only diagnoses 20 out of 100,000 and the US diagnoses less than 10.

Yang Pan-chih (楊泮池), vice superintendent of National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), who took part in Ting's press conference said that TB is a curable disease and not difficult to prevent.

However, the government's neglect has caused TB to spread, Yang said.

The control of such a disease usually reflects on the economic situation and health standards of a country. The TB situation in Taiwan reflects badly on the nation, he added.

Luh Kwen-tai (陸坤泰), president of the National Tuberculosis Association, said that since the national medical insurance scheme was implemented, TB patients had stopped going to specialized TB centers for check-ups and ended up mixing with regular patients at hospitals.

As a result, specialized TB doctors were sent to hospitals to deal with asthma and other illnesses, and the TB-prevention section at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was closed down, Luh said.

In addition to more effective government policies, TB patients must also be properly educated, Luh said.

Luh said that Department of Health (DOH) budgets did not include TB prevention.

Yang Si-biao (楊思標), former superintendent of NTUH, said that a TB-prevention network must be established and that the DOH should assemble a TB-prevention committee composed of experienced doctors.

CDC official Yang Shih-yan (楊世仰) said that TB is a global problem and that the government has encouraged doctors to report new TB cases as soon as they are discovered.

Saying that the DOH has set aside a NT$1 billion (US$30 million) budget for tuberculosis-prevention this year, Yang Shih-yan added that better communication with local governments is needed and communities to establish an effective TB-prevention network.

Earlier this week, a teacher at an elementary school in Taipei was diagnosed with open pulmonary tuberculosis and it was found that she had infected four of her students.

The teacher had been coughing for two months and was unaware of the problem until she had a health checkup at school which showed that she was suffering from TB.

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