Patients 'too slow' over TB symptoms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 March, 1998, 12:00am


Hong Kong could still lag Western counterparts in bringing tuberculosis under control 50 years from now unless victims wake up to their symptoms and seek treatment, experts warn.

Speaking on World Tuberculosis Day yesterday, doctors stressed awareness was the key to combating the disease, which kills about 300 people each year.

Patients with symptoms were not seeking treatment soon enough, Dr Chan Shiu-lun, representative of the Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Disease Association said.

'Unfortunately, the elderly are the ones most drawn in,' he explained. 'They don't pay attention to it even though they have symptoms. Family members should also be more aware.' A sudden rise in new tuberculosis cases has prompted fears of a resurgence of the killer disease in Hong Kong.

The rate of increase has doubled over the past year - with 7,072 cases reported in 1997. In 1996, there were 6,501 new cases, up only 289 on 1995.

It is unclear whether the abrupt rise is due to increased awareness after a spate of infections at a kindergarten last year.

Since 1952, new-born babies have been vaccinated against the disease, with a coverage rate then of only about four per cent, Dr Chan said.

By 1970, the coverage rate was almost 100 per cent, but Hong Kong is still a long way from eliminating the disease.

'I would think by 50 years from now, it should be under control like Western countries,' Dr Chan said.

A World Tuberculosis Day ceremony in Sha Tin was attended by Secretary for Health and Welfare, Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching.