Continuous efforts needed to stop Tuberculosis

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The community should always be on the alert to prevent and fight against tuberculosis (TB) although the annual reported cases in Hong Kong have been maintained at around 6 000 with a stable downward trend in recent years.

Officiating at the ceremony marking the annual World TB Day today (March 24), the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr York Chow, noted that continuous collaborative efforts are essential in the fight against TB as the disease remained a global threat and ranked high among the world's most popular infectious diseases.

Dr Chow thanked the community members and non-governmental organizations for their efforts in combating the disease.

The World TB Day was set on March 24 by the WHO to heighten public awareness on the importance of timely diagnosis and effective treatment for TB patients to prevent the spread of the disease.

This year, the WHO reported that extensive drug-resistant TB cases (XDR-TB) were confirmed in different parts of the world and called for immediate efforts to stop the situation from worsening.

Cases are defined as XDR-TB if the bacteria are resistant to at least two main first-line anti-TB drugs and some major second-line drugs.

In Hong Kong, XDR-TB cases currently account for about 0.1 % of the total bacteriologically positive (TB germs can be cultured from sputum samples) TB cases and the risk is regarded as relatively low.

The Director of Health, Dr P Y Lam, who also officiated at the event, pointed out that the incubation period of TB could be very long and the community should be vigilant against it.

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He said the "Directly Observed Treatment" (DOT) recommended by the WHO had been adopted in Hong Kong since 1970s with remarkable results.

Dr Lam called on TB patients to take medication regularly and complete the course of drug therapy under the guidance of healthcare professionals, in order to minimise the possibility of drug-resistant TB.

Through the network of DH's chest clinics in district levels, diagnosis and treatment service were provided to TB patients free of charge to ensure that all patients receive timely and effective treatment.

The department kept close track of the latest trend of TB in Hong Kong through its TB surveillance system and took timely intervention where necessary to combat the disease.

The TB Reference Laboratory under the Centre for Health Protection, which was accredited by the WHO as a Supranational TB Reference Laboratory last year, provides quality TB testing services, including drug susceptibility tests and supports CHP in formulating the overall strategy on TB control.

Dr Lam stressed that there would be no let-go in the department's fight against TB and it would maintain close co-operation with the Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Diseases Association, Hospital Authority, community member and professional bodies to provide the public with information on TB prevention and quality treatment services.

"Members of the public 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. Only with the support of the community, we can successfully contain the disease," he added.

Today's ceremony also marked the launching of a range of health educational and promotional activities to mobilise public support against TB.

Other officiating guests include the Chairman of the Hospital Authority, Mr Anthony Wu, and Chairman of the Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Diseases Association, Mr Y L Pang.

More information on TB is available from the Department's Tuberculosis and Chest Service hotline at 2572 6024. Members of the public can also visit the website jointly developed by the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority at http://www.info.gov.hk/tb_chest or the WHO website at http://www.who.int/gtb.

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