The public has been urged to remain vigilant in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), despite the number of cases in Hong Kong falling to the lowest level on record last year.
According to the latest statistics from the Department of Health, there were 4,306 reported cases of TB in 2017, which is down 40 cases from the year before. Within that figure, 288 cases involved those aged under 25, four cases more than the year before. The highest number of cases was recorded among those aged 65 and above, with 1,869 cases in 2017.
TB is caused by bacteria that attack the lungs, and can be spread through the air by coughing, spitting or sneezing. TB can be cured using a long course of antibiotics, although there are now several forms of drug-resistant TB. The BCG vaccine can prevent people from contracting TB, and the vaccine is included in the government’s Immunisation Programme.
Government and health officials stressed the importance of fighting TB at an event held in Diamond Hill last Saturday, which was World Tuberculosis Day. “Although the notification rate of TB has continued to decline and the number of multidrug-resistant TB cases has been maintained at a low level, our TB prevention work still faces challenges,” said Wong Ka-hing, the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Diseases Association said the decline in the number of TB cases could be attributed to an overall improvement in hygiene levels.
He called on people to pay attention to personal hygiene, and maintain a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and a balanced diet.
Hong Kong has a high number of TB cases compared to other developed countries in Europe and North America. In September last year, an outbreak of TB affected a secondary school in Sha Tin, with seven students and one teacher infected.