Sat, Mar 22, 2014 - Page 3 News List

CDC officials targeting misconceptions about TB

TREATABLE:The health agency says many people do not know enough about the disease to recognize its symptoms and fear discrimination if they should catch it

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

People tend to harbor unnecessary fears about tuberculosis (TB), not knowing that two weeks of treatment stops the infectious period of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said ahead of World TB Day on Monday.

TB is treatable, but misconceptions about it have caused many people to hold unnecessary fear about the respiratory infection, the CDC said yesterday.

A TB survey conducted by the agency last year found that as many as 50.8 percent of respondents did not know that after two weeks of treatment, the TB bacteria in a patient could be largely exterminated, which greatly reduces the disease’s virulence.

Additionally, 44 percent were not aware of the signs and symptoms of TB, which include a cough for longer than two weeks, chest pains, loss of appetite and weight, and coughing up phlegm.

In addition to calling for better understanding of the disease, the agency said it is also aiming to eradicate discrimination against TB, as 36.7 percent of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable if a TB patient was nearby and 46.2 percent were afraid of being discriminated against if they became ill with the disease.

Underscoring the importance of early detection and treatment, and dispelling misconceptions about the disease are the major points of the agency’s TB prevention efforts this year, CDC Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張峰義) said.

“The TB case rate has decreased from 72.5 per 100,000 in 2005 to an estimated 51.5 per 100,000 in 2013, with the help of the launch of DOTS [Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course] in 2006,” Chang said.

Wang Jann-Yuan (王振源), an internist specializing in pulmonary infections and TB at National Taiwan University Hospital, said unfamiliarity with symptoms could delay treatment and increase the risk of passing the disease on to others.

Younger people tend to be more inattentive to the symptoms as they believe they are healthy, Wang added.

Six months of drug therapy can effectively cure a TB patient, Wang said.

“After [the first] two weeks of medicines, the virulence would be eliminated, unless the patient did not adhere to the treatment,” Wang said.

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