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Nation Ups Efforts in Fight Against TB

Vice Premier Wu Yi on Friday urged increased efforts to realize the country's goal of detecting at least 70 percent of new smear tested tuberculosis (TB) cases by 2005.

"We have made the commitment but we are still a long way from the target," Wu told a nationally televised conference on TB prevention.

Though China has invested a huge amount of money and energy into the endeavor, it still faces a grave situation. Recent statistics indicate there are 4.5 million TB sufferers in China and it was listed by the World Health Organization (WTO) as one of the 22 countries with a high TB-burden. Of those 4.5 million, 1.5 million are infectious.

The country sees 1.45 million new cases every year and 130,000 deaths.

She said more effort should be made to help medical workers diagnose new patients and ensure they take medication regularly.

In the countryside, the central government is considering a large increase in funding to fight TB.

Presently, the central government allocates 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million) each year, mainly for medical treatment.

Wu asked local health institutions, especially those at county and township levels to tighten monitoring, reporting and management.

At the county level, mobile medical vans are being considered to provide basic healthcare services for people in remote and rural areas and find more new patients for timely treatment.

An earlier report was cited as saying an additional several hundred million yuan will be used to provide TB patients with DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course) therapy. DOTS is a universally applied treatment recommended by WHO.

It is one of the central government's major programs in meeting global targets for TB control.

According to the Ministry of Health, the case detection rate of TB patients in China presently stands at about 45 percent, while DOTS coverage is approaching 100 percent and the cure rate is over 85 percent.

Tuberculosis is the leading infectious cause of death in China. The country ranks second in the world in the number of TB patients after India.

The international community has been heavily involved in China's TB treatment drive. The World Health Organization, World Bank, the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK, Damien Foundation, the Government of Japan, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other national and international non-governmental organizations have played important roles in the projects.

(China Daily September 4, 2004)

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