Despite the government’s anti-tuberculosis efforts, Korea still suffered the highest TB incidence and mortality among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018. In the nation, 72 people were newly infected with TB, and five people died due to the disease every day last year.
Rep. Nam In-soon of the ruling Democratic Party released the data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) and the Korean National Tuberculosis Association.
Korea had 33,796 TB patients in 2018. There were 65.9 patients with TB per 100,000 people. The number of new TB patients recorded 26,433, and that of deaths, 1,800. On average, 72.4 people had a new TB infection, and 4.9 people died daily.
Nam said 70 in 100,000 Koreans had new TB infections, and five died of the disease in 2017, citing the World Health Organization’s “Global Tuberculosis Report 2018.”
“The nation’s TB incidence ranks first in 35 members of OECD. The figures are beyond comparison as the OECD average of TB incidence was 11.1 per 100,000, and average mortality, 0.9,” Nam said.
She added that Korea’s TB incidence also had a wide gap with that of Latvia, which ranked second with 32 new TB infections per 100,000. The country had 3.7 deaths per 100,000.
Nam noted that Lithuania, which joined OECD in July 2018, had 50 new TB infections and 6.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2017. Compared to Lithuania, Korea had a higher TB incidence but lower mortality.
She went on to say that the Moon Jae-in administration is pushing for various measures to fight TB by 2030. She urged the government to strengthen TB and latent TB screening for high-risk groups, including workers in collective facilities and vulnerable households.
The government should also enhance measures for early detection, treatment, and patient management to combat TB, which is more common in developing countries, she added.
According to Nam, the national program for screening latent TB for 1.21 million people in 2017 and 480,000 in 2018 showed that 11.6 percent and 5.6 percent of them tested positive, respectively.
She called for the health authorities to continue to conduct latent TB screening for workers in collective buildings and high-risk groups, and minimize TB spread by treating those with latent TB proactively.
According to Rep. Nam, the national program for screening latent TB for 478,010 people showed that 26,697 of them, or 5.6 percent, tested positive in latent TB.
By the job types, the latent TB positive rate was highest, with 20 percent among administrative workers at schools, followed by 18.6 percent among employees at daycare centers, and 10.9 percent among workers at medical institutions.
This year, KCDC is operating the latent TB screening program for 430,000 people, including 101,000 in medical institutions and 330,000 men who are subject to military service examination.