One TB patient can potentially infect 10 people: Malaysian health minister

KUALA LUMPUR - As many as 10 people can be infected by just one Tuberculosis (TB) patient if no precautionary measures are taken to contain the spread of the disease.

Last year, 24,071 TB cases were reported, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

"At the moment, we are still able to control the spread of the disease.

"If the disease is not controlled, this means it can increase up to 240,710 cases, but that is the theoretical risk," said Dr Subramaniam at the launch of the national level World TB Day at Pasar Raja Bot in Chow Kit yesterday.

He said compared to 2012, there was a 6 per cent increase in the number of TB cases reported and a 13 per cent increase in the number of deaths due to the disease in 2013.

In 2012, there were 22,710 TB cases reported with 1,414 deaths while in 2013, there were 1,597 who died due to TB.

Subramaniam said the influx of foreigners was said to be one of the contributing factors for the rise of the disease.

He said it is difficult to detect the bacteria as illegal immigrants were not screened before entering the country.

In the cases reported last year, 14 per cent were foreigners and 86 per cent were Malaysians.

Sabah had the highest number with 4,526 TB cases reported, followed by Selangor (4,148 cases), Sarawak (2,673 cases) and Johor (2,247 cases).

Subramaniam said the challenge is in identifying those with the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB and treating them to help prevent the spread of it.

He added that his ministry had beefed up campaigns and promotions on TB by setting up kiosks at every district nationwide to create more awareness on the disease.

TB is a contagious airborne disease which is still posing a major health problem worldwide.

The World Health Organisation estimates that nine million people suffer from TB with one million people dying due to the disease.

The control of TB relies upon

prevention through the Bacillus Cal­mette-Guérin or BCG vaccination.

BCG vaccine has been used worldwide as a neonatal vaccination against severe forms of TB.