My friend a private medical practitioner in Kota Kinabalu, who was one time before, Head of a government hospital in the interiors of Sabah, has been diagnosed for Tuberculosis (TB) and is undergoing treatment now.

I feel so sorry for him, he is so thin and half the size he use to be.

I ask him, how come you are doctor and you of all persons has got TB? His reply, bulk of his patients are illegals from Philippines and most of them got TB and he probably picked it up from them when they came for treatment in his clinic.

Wah!, so frightening!

So, I decided to do some homework on Tuberculosis (TB) and wanted to write a little about it. Not to put fear but to highlight to Premier Najib that there is serious diseases being brought into our shores in Sabah by illegals which numbers in millions.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the biggest threats to public health according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It seems that South-East Asia Region has one death a minute because of TB. WHO says that although the total number of people affected by the disease has steadily declined in the last decade, there are five million people living with TB in the region — a third of the global burden — and more than 3 million are affected every year.

This Thursday is World Tuberculosis Day. World Health Organisation, has emphasised the need for greater innovation for strategy, diagnostics and new drugs, and universal access to health services to successfully fight tuberculosis. With resistance to current drugs being a persistent threat, new and effective drugs for TB are urgently needed as there are large numbers of transient population moving from one country to another without proper medical checks.

“There have been significant achievements in the past decade, according to WHO. However they say, globally we have a limited number of options to seriously tackle TB. Our best available strategy, and one that must be strengthened further if we are to have a chance of achieving our goals, is basic directly observed treatment, short course (DOTS),” said Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

Expansion and strengthening of DOTS in the South East Asia region has resulted in over two million people with TB being successfully treated every year. As a result, the proportion of the region’s population becoming affected with TB has been declining each year and is now a quarter less than the 1990 levels, while the number of deaths has reduced by 44 per cent.

Good performance of DOTS in the region has lowered multi-drug resistance (MDR-TB) among newly detected cases of TB. However, given the large number of TB cases in the Region, this translates to 1,30,000 people MDR-TB, accounting for a third of all the world’s MDR-TB cases. Costs of treating MDR-TB are high — nearly 100 times a normal case of TB, requiring high resource inputs and mobilisation by the governments, which would mean approximately $ 400 million each year for emerging cases in the Region.

In Malaysia, health care services in TB must be expanded to include providers outside the purview of the Ministry of Health, such as town councils, Rela, police, immigration, military and prison health services and private providers.

There are many such institutions across Malaysia, such as medical colleges, private practitioners, large public and private hospitals, corporate institutions, non-governmental organisations, faith-based Christian organisations including my church Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), who are now working with national TB programmes. In addition, an increasing number of private laboratories have been included in national diagnostic networks, and this is good and need to praise our Director of Health Services Malaysia, as, he is putting serious initiatives and have contributed to the improved detection and treatment of the disease in Malaysia, nevertheless.

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