With 18,000 people dying of tuberculosis (TB) per year, Vietnam ranks 12th out of the 22 highest TB burden countries identified by the World Health Organization, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health has warned ahead of the World TB Day (March 24).
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The warning was released at a conference held by the ministry in Hanoi on Friday to discuss the implementation of the National Strategy for TB Prevention and Control by 2020.
Every year, besides the above death toll of TB, Vietnam has about 130,000 new TB patients along with 170,000 existing patients of the disease, the ministry said.
Of the total number of TB patients, about 3,500 contracted multidrug-resistant TB, the conference was told.
It is worth noting that poor people account for 75 percent of the total number of TB patients and that the death toll of TB is double that of traffic accidents, according to a report released at the event.
TB is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It most commonly affects the lungs and the disease is transmitted from person to person via bacteria from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease, according to the WHO.
In healthy people, infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis often causes no symptoms, since the person's immune system acts to “wall off” the bacteria.
The symptoms of active TB of the lung are coughing, sometimes with sputum or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. Tuberculosis is treatable with a six-month course of antibiotics.
Cut death toll by 50%
Keeping TB under control is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that Vietnam has committed to the world community.
Accordingly, Vietnam is striving to cut both the death toll and the number of new cases of TB by 50 percent by 2015 compared with 2010 levels.
Specifically, the health authorities are expected to reduce the ratio of TB patients to population to 187 per 100,000 inhabitants and push down the mortality rate of TB patients to 18 per 100,000 residents by the end of 2015.
The National Strategy for TB Prevention and Control has set out many solutions to fight TB, including amending policies related to TB prevention and control to make them more effective, boosting the early detection of TB and the efficiency of TB treatment, mobilizing international support for combating TB, and building plans to strengthen epidemiological surveillance of TB.
Speaking at the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam called for more efforts to fight TB.
"It is necessary to ensure there are enough medicines for TB patients. The Health Ministry must take effective measures to detect people with TB early so that they can be treated in time and effectively, contributing to preventing the spread of TB."
In coming days, the health authorities will conduct many activities to mark the World TB, with the theme of “The entire people are determined to successfully implement the National Strategy for TB Prevention and Control."