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Tuberculosis remains a threat amid Covid-19

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Cambodian migrant workers returning from Thailand arrived in Siem Reap on July 5, 2021. Siem Reap Information Department

Tuberculosis remains a threat amid Covid-19

From January last year to June this year, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) tested more than 13,000 migrants for tuberculosis (TB), around 200 of whom tested positive and were referred to health centres for treatment.

Dum Chanthida, the national project officer at IOM, told The Post on July 8 that the positive cases were found through tests conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities who were working to better implement migration health policy in the province.

“Some of the more than 200 migrants who tested positive have aready recovered. This is the total data we have compiled since the beginning of the project … from January 2020 until June this year,” she said.

When the project was first implemented, IOM had tested migrants returning from Thailand at border checkpoints. But due to the spread of Covid-19, this changed in September last year and migrants were no longer tested for TB at border checkpoints.

Chanthida added that the project is currently being implemented in Poipet town, Mongkol Borei and Malai districts. The IOM will eventually expand the project to other districts across the province.

According to the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT), the number of TB patients has significantly dropped since 2011. The mortality rate due to TB from 2011 to 2019 also dropped by more than 50 per cent.

CENAT director Huot Chan Yuda told The Post on July 8 that the health ministry’s working group continued to carry out the work to identify the virus and treat TB for people throughout the country without fail.

He said CENAT will also continue to cooperate with IOM to test migrant workers returning from Thailand through Banteay Meanchey province.

“We will continue our work to combat TB despite Covid-19. This work requires us to further cooperate with authorities and all relevant partner civil society organisations,” he said.

Last year, he said specialists had detected 29,136 cases of TB, 94 per cent of whom had recovered. In 2019, there were 17 cases of TB-related deaths among a population of more than 10 million.

In the first six months of this year, TB cases had dropped compared to 2020, though he did not provide an exact figure. TB-related deaths during this period have yet to be tallied.

He noted that some actions to combat TB had not been carried out due to the pandemic, but treatment service provision and research into TB had continued.

Chanthida of IOM said TB is an infectious disease that can pose a danger to lives if the patient is not treated. IOM seeks to detect the virus to identify TB in a timely manner so that TB-positive people cannot pass the virus on to family members or others.

She added that the virus spreads by infection like Covid-19. In order to prevent it, they have to slow down transmissions to others when someone tests positive for TB.

“If TB-positive people get treatment in a timely manner, they will not die. But it takes up to six months for the disease to be treated successfully even if the patients follow medical advice properly.

“The IOM [working group] is working with health centres in local areas to do a health follow-up of TB patients to make sure that they will follow a doctor’s advice properly and regularly take medication,” she said.

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