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     FrontPage Edition: Tue 22 April 2008

Incidence of Pulmonary Tuberculosis


Incidence Of Pulmonary Tuberculosis
Parliamentary QA
21 Apr 2008
Question No: 548
Question By: Dr Fatimah Lateef
To ask the Minister of Health with the high incidence of pulmonary tuberculosis for a first world nation and a third of the cases being amongst foreigners and work permit holders
(a) what is the Ministry’s course of action and strategies to reduce the current 35.1 per 100,000 population incidence to less than 20 per 100,000 population as in other first world nations; and
(b) whether this figure will have a bearing on our reputation as an international economic, financial and healthcare hub.
Reply from MOH
Our tuberculosis (TB) incidence rate of 35 per 100,000 residents is indeed higher than the corresponding rates of less than 20 in other developed countries. This is largely for historical reason. TB has a long incubation period. A person can be infected and only become ill many years later.
Up till the 1960s, TB was common in Singapore. In 1960, for example, our TB incidence rate was 307 per 100,000 residents. This was nearly ten-fold the current rate. Some elderly Singapore residents who were living then are now manifesting the illness and contributing to the current incidence rate.
Last year, for example, the TB incidence rate among our residents aged 60 years and above was 106 per 100,000. The corresponding figure for Singapore residents below 20 years, for instance was only 6 per 100,000. In other words, in terms of TB incidence, our population is a mixture of both the first world and the third world.
In time, our incidence rate would match those in the other developed countries, although unlike these countries, we will continue to have a more challenging task as we have a large foreign worker population who come from countries with high TB incidence.
Meanwhile, we will press on with our TB control strategy of early detection, aggressive contact-tracing and prompt treatment and complete cure for the adults. As a preventive step, we also extend treatment to contacts of TB patients who have latent infection so as to arrest the progress of the disease.
I do not think our TB incidence rate will tarnish our reputation as an international economic, financial and healthcare hub. Indeed, our success in tackling TB within a generation is often quoted as a reference for many developing countries. We can be proud of this achievement. But we should remain vigilant because our region has high TB incidence and drug-resistant TB has become a major global problem.

Source: News 21 Apr 2008

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