Friday, June 27, 2014

30% of TB cases from Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR: Thirty per cent of the total tuberculosis (TB) cases in Malaysia were reported in Sabah due to the high influx of illegal immigrants.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said illegal immigrants were one of the problems that the ministry faced in its effort to control the spread of TB in Sabah.
“Measures to detect TB cases are complicated as the immigrants often relocate to avoid detection by the authorities.
“For those who do seek treatment, they often fail to complete the whole course of treatment, resulting in Multiple Drugs Resistant TB (MDRTB),” he said.
As a developing country, Subramaniam said Malaysia offered a lot of job opportunities to non-citizens which attracted foreigners from neighbouring countries to Malaysia.
“This phenomenon has led to problems such as the spread of TB infection, when foreigners from countries with high risk of TB enter Malaysia.
“This cannot be avoided, but the Health Ministry through partners like Fomema and Gowarisan Sdn Bhd will continue to implement TB screening before allowing them to work in our country,” he continued.
Subramaniam said this in response to Senator Datuk Chin Su Phin’s question on the proactive measures taken by the Health Ministry to overcome TB disease that was increasingly serious in Sabah during the Dewan Negara sitting here on Tuesday. Chin also wanted to know if the situation was caused by foreigners.
Subramaniam revealed that the number of TB cases had increased between six and 14 per cent per annum for the past five years.
As of May this year, a total of 10,007 TB cases were reported, of which 1,439 cases (14.3 per cent) were non-citizens and 8,568 cases (85.6 per cent) were Malaysians.
Last year, a total of 24,071 TB cases were reported of which 3,384 (14 per cent) cases involved non-citizens.
Subramaniam said the Health Ministry was working closely with immigration authorities to assist in the detection of TB-infected foreigners for deportation.
Fomema and Growarisan are responsible for implementing health screenings, including for TB diseases among migrant workers before they are allowed work in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah respectively.
“If they show signs of TB infection, their work permits will not be approved and they will subsequently be sent back to their country of origin.
“This method can directly reduce TB incidences among foreigners and combat the spread of TB among the society in Malaysia, especially in Sabah,” he added.
Besides that, Subramaniam said medical officers actively carry out TB screenings in all government health facilities to identify patients at early stages of infection as well as provide effective treatment to eliminate the infection immediately.
At the same time, the ministry also organizes health education activities to raise awareness about the dangers of TB in the community.
However, an increasing number of TB cases have become more complicated due to resistance to the first line of TB drugs.
He said TB patients resistant to the first line of drugs were between 0.3 and 1.3 per cent of the overall number of cases from 2004 to 2013.
Subramaniam said the Health Ministry was responsible for purchasing the second line of TB drugs to ensure chronic patients could recover and curb the spread of the disease.
However, the estimated cost of this drug is about RM6,000 to RM200,000 per person, he said.
In order to enhance early detection of patients with TB drug resistance, Subramaniam said the Health Ministry has undertaken planning and procurement of high-tech diagnostic devices so that patients would be given immediate treatment to curb the spread of drug-resistant TB strains.

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