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     FrontPage Edition: Tue 3 April 2007

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Decline in Tuberculosis incidence in Singapore


Decline in Tuberculosis incidence in Singapore

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, on 24th March 2007, recognizes the global fight against tuberculosis.
While TB remains a major health problem around the world, Singapore has continued to see a drop in the number of TB cases.
Over the past ten years, Singapore has seen a steady decline in the number of TB cases. There were 1,256 cases in 2006, compared to 1,712 cases in 1997.
In 2006, the incidence rate of TB declined to 34.8 new cases per 100,000 resident population, from 37.0 per 100,000 in 2005 and 54.9 per 100,000 in 1997.
In 2006, men accounted for 863 (69% percent) of new TB cases in Singapore, and more than half (55%) of the patients were aged 50 years and above.
The concerted efforts carried out under the Singapore Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (STEP) and by the medical community have contributed to the decline in TB cases in Singapore. Singapore Tuberculosis Elimination Programme.
To combat the problem of TB, the Ministry of Health embarked on the Singapore Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (STEP) in 1997.
The key component of the STEP is early diagnosis and proper treatment of patients with TB. This will cure and prevent further transmission of the disease and emergence of drug-resistant TB.
Importance of adherence to treatment
Tuberculosis can be cured with proper treatment consisting of at least three different drugs to be taken regularly for six to nine months.
Persons who do not complete the full course of treatment or are irregular with treatment may not be cured and may continue to be infectious and may develop drug resistant TB. They also have an increased risk of suffering a relapse of TB in the future.
Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) is an international standard of care for TB treatment. In DOT, a trained healthcare professional monitors the patient taking each dose of anti-TB medication.
DOT is a major component of STEP, contributing to the success of the programme. When TB patients receive their medications under DOT, both patients and the community benefit. DOT improves patients' adherence to the complete treatment regimen and enables healthcare workers to regularly monitor the patients for side effects of treatment.
By ensuring treatment compliance, the patient becomes non-infectious sooner, and rates of drug resistance in the community also decrease. The Ministry therefore strongly supports DOT as an ideal mode of treatment for patients with TB.
Family and community support critical
Because the treatment regimen for TB is prolonged, it is critical for the patient to receive the full support of his family, friends, workplace and community, so that he can successfully complete treatment and be cured. This will then help to limit the spread of TB and reduce the burden of this disease in our country.
Ministry's Advice
TB is an air borne disease transmitted through respiratory droplets from a person with the disease. Persons with TB disease may have a prolonged cough and blood in the sputum. They may also have fever, night sweats, loss of weight and appetite and feel tired and fatigued easily.
The Ministry would like to advise persons who have symptoms of the disease (prolonged cough, blood in the sputum, fever, night sweats, loss of weight and appetite, tiredness and fatigue) to consult a doctor as soon as possible. This will allow treatment to be started early if TB is diagnosed.
The Ministry also advises all persons diagnosed with tuberculosis to follow the advice of their doctor, and to complete treatment for tuberculosis.
Members of the public who wish to find out more about tuberculosis may obtain more information at the Health Promotion Board website.

Source: Press Release 20 Mar 2007

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