Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - About 35% of TB cases ‘missed’



About 35% of TB cases ‘missed’

A patient and a family member sit on a bed at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control in Chamkarmon district, Phnom Penh
A patient and a family member sit on a bed at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control in Chamkarmon district, Phnom Penh, in December. Heng Chivoan

About 35% of TB cases ‘missed’

Cambodia continues to shoulder a disproportionate percentage of the world’s tuberculosis victims, with a higher prevalence rate of the extremely contagious respiratory disease than anywhere outside of South Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

With the assistance of free screenings and free treatment, the Kingdom has seen rates of infection falling year by year, though with 764 cases per 100,000 people last year compared to 1,670 cases per 100,000 in 1995, the number still looms twice as high as the 2015 Millennium Development Goal.

While the battle against TB infections in Cambodia has largely hit positive notes, the WHO warned on the eve of World Tuberculosis Day yesterday that about 35 per cent of active infections are “missed” – either not found or not treated.

“One reason that so many cases are being missed is that people have not received enough information and are not aware their cough might be something more serious. Another reason is that some populations remain very hard to reach,” said Mao Tan Eang director of the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control.

Tan Eang added that the majority of missed cases occur among the poorest communities, elderly populations and marginalised groups including migrant workers, prisoners and HIV-positive people.

The WHO has previously estimated that up to 64 per cent of the Cambodian population, or more than 9.5 million people in the Kingdom, carry latent Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes the potentially lethal infection. One in every 10 latent cases is expected to become an active infection.

The key to finding many of the “missed” cases lies with early detection, according to health experts.

“Until a few months ago, traditionally, health centres (and even the entire world) have been using single-symptom screening for cough of more than two weeks,” said the WHO’s Dr Rajendra-Prassad Yadav. “However, [surveys] have shown that if health centres screen only for this single symptom, they will continue to either miss or delay treatment of about 70 per cent of TB cases.”

In addition to the problem of missed cases, Cambodia is also experiencing a major gap in funding for the public health problem. In 2011, $12 million was available to tackle the disease, but this year, that number dwindled to just $7 million.

And without more money, researching the increasingly problematic multi-drug resistant strains, innovating new preventive vaccines and implementing new rapid screening technology remains elusive.

“We will continue to miss the three million [cases undetected globally] if we continue to do the same thing,” Yadav said. “Progress made by Cambodia’s TB program has been significant [but] the threat to these gains is real.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAIGNEE BARRON, AMELIA WOODSIDE AND MOM KUNTHEAR

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants