World TB Day Arouses Public Awareness

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a threat to Hong Kong and is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world and thus continuous collaborative efforts are essential in the fight against TB.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of World TB Day, the Permanent Secretary for Food and Health (Health), Ms Sandra Lee, said the World Health Organisation's designation of March 24 as World TB Day was to raise public awareness of the importance of timely diagnosis and effective treatment for TB patients to prevent the spread of the disease.

Even though annually reported new cases of TB in Hong Kong have stayed at around 6,000 with a stable downward trend in recent years, the community should still be vigilant against tuberculosis, Ms Lee said.

She said the Government would continue to work with the Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Diseases Association to fight against TB and provide updated TB information and treatment to the public.


Also speaking at the ceremony, the Director of Health, Dr P Y Lam, said, "Hong Kong has been adopting Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) as recommended by the WHO for TB patients since 1970s. DOT has been proven to be an effective way to cure TB patients with remarkable results."

Under DOT, TB patients take medication regularly and complete the course of drug therapy under the guidance of healthcare professionals to minimise the possibility of drug-resistant TB.

Dr Lam said, "People are encouraged to build up their resistance by adopting a healthy lifestyle and getting adequate rest and exercise. They should also adhere to a balanced diet and avoid smoking and drinking."

Today's ceremony was organised by the Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Diseases Association, the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority.

A series of promotions, exhibitions, and educational activities will be held to spread the anti-TB message.



TB can be cured if the patient sticks to a tedious six to nine month antibiotic regimene. In the first half of the twentieth century developed nations employed antibiotics with alacrity, and along with other improved public health measures diseases like TB were all but extirpated in places like the US. In fact, as Randolph Nesse M.D. and George Williams PhD write in their book Why We Get Sick, "In 1969 the US Surgeon General felt justified in announcing that it was 'time to close the book on infectious diseases'." Well the book has not only been re-opened since then, but it has been re-written. Now, some of the bacteria causing TB has evolved to withstand the first-line antibiotics, so-called multidrug resistant TB (MDR TB). Barry and Cheung say to effectively fight off the defiant MDR TB "requires therapy for up to two years with second-line anti-TB drugs that produce severe side effects". Even worse, there are cases of Extreme Drug Resistant TB (XDR TB) that can go virtually unscathed by all lines of defense put against it. "People with tuberculosis resistant to multiple drugs have about a 50% chance of survival, note Nesse and Williams. "That is about the same as before antibiotics were invented!" they warn.