Doctor warns of weak spot in fight against tuberculosis


Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 4

A doctor with the Department of Health's Chest Hospital warned on Wednesday that the country's efforts to battle tuberculosis have a weak link because 90 percent of those in close contact with TB patients are not thoroughly tested.

Huang Shao-tsung (黃紹宗), director of the hospital's infectious diseases division, said new regulations on TB control that took effect in June require anyone who has been in contact with an infectious TB patient for eight hours in a single day to be tested for infection.

He said between August 2005 and July, there were 1,069 people who required such testing. However, after having an initial chest X-ray taken, 969 never returned for a second check-up. Only 89 had a second chest X-ray taken within the next year, while just 11 returned for a third test.

Huang said the bacteria that causes TB can remain dormant for many years, and that those who are infected have a 10 percent to 20 percent chance of developing the disease, while half of these will become symptomatic within five years.

He urged people who have been in close contact with TB patients to complete the entire three-year testing procedure.

TB is the most prevalent communicable disease in Taiwan. Approximately 15,000 persons are infected every year.

Statistics show that there were 24,161 people with TB in 2004, including 16,784 new cases, an incidence rate of 74.11 per 100,000 people. About 92.3 percent of the cases were pulmonary TB. That year 957 people died of the disease.