TB Rate Declines But Remains High

The percentage of Cambodians falling ill with tuberculosis continued a gradual decline in 2009, but remained the highest in the region and one of the highest in the world, according to an annual report released yesterday by the World Health Organization.

Cambodia saw about 442 new cases per 100,000 people in 2009, down from 446 in 2008 and 451 in 2007, according to the report. Burma had the second-highest rate of infection in the region in 2009, with 404 cases per every 100,000 people.

But Cambodia was singled out in the report as one of four nations burdened with a large number of TB cases that had reduced the mortality rate by half since 1990. The mortality rate for non-HIV-positive TB patients dropped from 175 deaths per every 100,000 cases in 1990 to 83 per 100,000 in 2005. It slipped to 71 per 100,000 in 2009.

Rajendra Yadav, Stop TB Officer for WHO in Cambodia, said by e-mail yesterday that Cambodia was “one of the best-performing countries in the world for TB control,” citing the “very high treatment success rates of over 90 percent for over a decade.”

Jamie Tonsing, Cambodia project director for the USAID-funded TB Control Assistance Program, said that a significant decrease in TB cases takes decades.

“What is good is that we’re showing a decline,” Ms Tonsing said.

She added that one of Cambodia’s success stories was the reduction of TB and HIV co-infection cases. According to the WHO report, the percent of tested TB patients who were HIV positive dropped to 13 percent in 2009 from 15 percent in 2008 and from 34 percent in 2007, according to the WHO report.

The WHO report also said that funding continued to fall short of the budget for the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control.

Mao Tan Eang, director of the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy, and Team Bakhim, deputy director of the center, were out of the country yesterday and could not be reached for comment. Other officials at the Ministry of Health declined to comment.

  (Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)


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