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Tuberculosis survey shows progress

Tuberculosis survey shows progress

The country's first nation-wide tuberculosis survey has found around half the number

of TB infections predicted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Health officials hailed the preliminary results as evidence of progress. However

they warned that advances made against the lethal disease could be lost to the spread

of the HIV virus, which has infected 2.6 percent of the adult population.

The results of the National TB and Prevalence Survey were presented to an international

conference on TB held in Phnom Penh on February 26. Dr Prap Jayavanth, a WHO consultant,

said it could take another ten years to bring TB under control.

"But with HIV/AIDS, the number of TB cases will increase and that will fuel

the epidemic. That's the biggest fear, especially in Cambodia," he said.

WHO estimates that around two-thirds of the population, some 8 million people, would

test positive for exposure to TB. Jayavanth said thousands of new infections occur

each year. While many of those exposed to TB will not contract the disease, it could

spread rapidly in patients with a compromised immune system.

The study concluded that improved treatment for TB, with medical workers directly

administering a two-month antibiotic regimen, had "reduced the prevalence rate

of the disease", but that reducing the rate of new infections would take more

time.

"The thing about TB is that prevention is also intervention," said Jesse

Rattan, health sector coordinator for CARE Cambodia.

"The only way to stop that process is to treat people with TB. As you get the

prevalence down, there are fewer people to infect."

The survey found 24,710 cases of active TB infections. At least 17,200 were contagious

due to pulmonary infections, but health officials warned these numbers were low as

the current detection rate is only 55 percent.

The secretary of state at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Dr Mam Bun Heng, said the

work of 600 health centers around Cambodia offering TB treatment could improve that

figure.

He said clinics and hospitals had already achieved a cure rate of 85 percent, far

above the global average. However the country is still regarded as one of the 22

'high-burdened' nations, which struggle with the world's highest rates of TB infection.

The survey, which was designed to assess the scope of the disease, was carried out

by the MoH's TB Center, WHO and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

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