WHO: High TB infection rate among the elderly

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The National, Tuesday 26th March 2013

 WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) has urged member countries to pay more attention to children and the elderly to ensure they have full access to tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis and treatment services. 

WHO regional director for Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo says many of the elderly who have the highest rate of TB infection were not being diagnosed at all while children were under-diagnosed.  

Shin said in a statement that some elderly people might face logistical challenges such as limited mobility and access to transportation.

He said in the elderly the symptoms of TB could be mistake for common ailments such as chronic coughing and general frailty.

“As for children, current diagnostic tools do not work well with them but new WHO guidelines provide health workers with necessary guidance,” Shin said.

“It is of utmost importance to screen the household contacts of identified TB patients so that children can receive treatment to prevent or cure the disease.” 

He said that the TB burden in the Western Pacific was still too high and although the region was on track to achieve the millennium development goal target of halving the TB epidemic by 2015, more than 1.4 million people were diagnosed each year. 

Shin said governments in the high burden countries provided free diagnosis and treatment for TB but many people were still unaware of this or were unable to access those services especially children and the elderly.

WHO reported that of the 22 high burden countries that accounted for more than 80% of the world’s cases, four were in the region: Cambodia, China, the Philippines and