Philippines, 3 others bear TB brunt in Western Pacific Region

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

THE Philippines and its three neighboring countries are found to be the top source of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the Western Pacific Region, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a statement for Monday's World TB Day observance, the WHO – Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) disclosed that Cambodia, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam have been found to be the main sources of the 1.6 million TB cases and 110,000 deaths each year in the region.

"Cambodia, China, the Philippines and Vietnam, account for 93 percent of the estimated regional TB burden," said the WHO.

The same four countries are also included in the list of 22 high-burden countries worldwide, noted the WHO.

What is worse, according to the international agency, is that 20 percent of the real number of TB cases being recorded is being "missed", or cases that are not found, treated and reported to national health authorities in the region.

"A significant challenge in the Region is that there are too many people with TB who remain undiagnosed in the community. In the Western Pacific Region, an estimated one in five TB cases is missed," noted WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo.

He also stressed how majority of "missed" TB cases are people who live in the poorest and most vulnerable communities, or are among marginalized populations such as migrants, prisoners, and ethnic minorities.

Aside from the problem on the actual number of cases, the WHO – WPRO also raised concerns over the other financial burdens the disease brings to people with TB.

This include transportation costs for clinics and medication, lost income from absences at work, and lost employment out of social stigma brought by TB.

"On average, half of all patients experience a catastrophic financial burden," lamented the WHO official.

He said this is despite the TB treatment itself being offered for free by government health services.

Because of this, the WHO – WPRO said they are already working with other stakeholders in developing new diagnostics, drugs and even vaccines for TB.

“With new diagnostics, drugs and even vaccines in the pipeline, building on the huge successes we have made, and with these new tools and global strategy, I'm confident we can overcome these challenges and provide a safer world for our children, increase social equity and eliminate this disease, which continues to cause far too much suffering for far too many people in the Region and around the world.," said Shin. (Sunnex)

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