TB deaths up 5pc, detections drop due to Covid-19, says Khairy
Published on: Thursday, October 28, 2021
By: Bernama
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An Indian patient diagnosed with tuberculosis is looking out from a TB ward at a government hospital in Jalandhar. (AFP Photo)
Kuala Lumpur: Tuberculosis (TB) mortality in Malaysia increased by 5% last year compared to 2019, while case detection dropped by 10% due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, said health minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

There has been inevitable consequences, he said, due to certain similarities in the behaviour of the two infectious diseases.

“Whilst measures to contain the pandemic have diverted the resources and impacted essential TB services in the country, measures like wearing face masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowded places and heightened hygiene awareness have helped to reduce the spread of TB bacilli,” he said.

Khairy said this in his intervention note at the 72nd session of the regional committee meeting for the Western Pacific (RCM72), held in Himeji, Japan today.

He said Malaysia has been very careful in making sure that the progress in TB care and prevention is not reversed by Covid-19, and has also introduced a new approach, especially in finding and treating patients with TB.

“We have practised virtual consultation and directly observed therapy (DOT) since the beginning of the pandemic, and advocated concurrent testing for TB and Covid-19, taking into consideration the similarity of symptoms,” he said, adding that outreach activities were carried out targeting high risk groups and hotspot areas for TB.

Khairy said the disease remains a major public health concern in the country with the TB notification rate (new and relapsed TB cases notified in a given year) of 72 per 100,000 population and a mortality rate of 7.1 per 100,000 population last year.

He said Malaysia reported around 20 to 21% latent TB infections annually, which has the potential risk to transition into active TB in later years, but TB preventive treatment uptake is still slow at around 60% for 2020.

“Drug-resistant TB (DRTB) persists and threatens our health security. Malaysia will continue to strengthen latent TB screening and provide TB Preventive Therapy (TPT), and ensure that DRTB is identified and treated appropriately,” he said.

Khairy said Malaysia was fully committed to ending TB by 2035 and has developed its National Strategic Plan for Ending TB (2021-2030) in line with the strategies proposed by the World Health Organization Western Pacific regional office.

“On that note, Malaysia supports the Western Pacific Regional Framework to End TB (2021–2030),” he said.

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