Tuberculosis on the rise in Vietnam

Tuberculosis is on the rise in Vietnam with the number of patients accounting to 40 per cent of the population, with a vast majority still lacking awareness or proper access to treatment.

A tuberculosis patient being treated in Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital in HCMC (Photo: SGGP)

Associate Professor Dinh Ngoc Sy, director of the National Lung Hospital and also chairman of the Anti-Tuberculosis National Programme, said that it is estimated that four in ten Vietnamese suffers from tuberculosis.

The country reports 300,000 new patients and nearly 30,000 people die of tuberculosis every year.

Tuberculosis is a disease that is curable if detected at an early stage. Under the Anti-Tuberculosis National Programme, 92 per cent of patients fully recover after the disease is identified at its primary state.

However, according to Mr. Sy, Vietnam faces a shortage of human resource to deal with the disease due to it being highly contagious and also because of a low pay scale. Besides, 50 per cent of the medical workers in districts are not trained in tuberculosis prevention and treatment.

There is also an ineffective and disorganised marketing of tuberculosis medicines. As a result, many people continue to self-medicate themselves, which has raised resistance to a number of tuberculosis medicines.

According to the Anti-Tuberculosis Programme, Vietnam is listed 12th among 22 nations with highest number of tuberculosis patients, and 14th among 27 countries with a high resistance to multi tuberculosis drugs.

Most tuberculosis patients are between the ages of 35-44. The low income groups are 2.5 times more susceptible to the disease than higher income groups, as they cannot afford proper and timely treatment.

Other than these factors, the percentage of HIV patients catching tuberculosis is also quite high, with an estimated 5,000 cases reported each year.

High resistance to multi tuberculosis drugs is also on the rise, affecting 2.7 per cent of the total number of patients, about 5,000-6,000 patients a year.

Nguyen Huy Dung, director of the Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital in HCMC, said that it is very difficult to treat those with multi drug resistance, which has led to a rise in the dead toll.

By Tuong Lam – Translated by Hai Mien

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