Korea has achieved positive results from the measures it implemented to reduce the number of foreigners with tuberculosis (TB), officials said.
According to a report by the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of new TB patients from foreign countries had decreased dramatically for two consecutive years since it and the Ministry of Justice implemented measures to manage foreign TB patients in March 2016. The number of international TB recipients decreased from 2,123 in 2016 to 1,398 in 2018, dropping 18.7 percent annually.
“Such results are thanks to mandatory examination for TB for foreign nationals from 19 high-risk countries when applying for a visa that extends more than 91 days,” the KCDC said.
Also, the agency was able to detect TB early for any foreigners from the 19 high-risk countries who had been living in Korea by mandating TB screening for those who wanted to change or extend their status of residence, it added. The 19 high-risk countries are China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Russia, Uzbekistan, Thailand, India, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan, Mongolia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, East Timor, and Laos.
The KCDC chose these countries based on whether they had more than 50 TB patients per 100,000 people, and they had a substantial number of people residing in Korea for employment or study.
To ascertain the rate of latent tuberculosis infection among foreign residents in Korea, the KCDC selected a dense foreigner-residing area in Gyeonggi Province and conducted a screening test for latent tuberculosis infection test in 2018. As a result, 2,510 out of 8,811 foreigners participating in the pilot project were positive for latent tuberculosis infection (IGRA), and the rate of latent tuberculosis increased with age.
“As the result of the project only shows the latency rate of tuberculosis infection among foreigners staying in a certain area, there is a limit to the overall result of the foreigners staying in Korea,” said Park Mi-sun, head of TB investigation at the KCDC. “In 2019, we plan to select an area in Seoul that is densely populated with foreigners to conduct the latent tuberculosis infection test.”
The agency also plans to continue expanding the TB control for foreigners as the number of foreigners entering the country for study and employment is increasing, Park added.