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Millions of TB Patients Receive Free Treatment
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China provided free treatment to 2.05 million lung tuberculosis (TB) patients in the past five years, a sign of progress in the country's TB control, the Ministry of Health said Friday.

By the end of 2005, the detection rate of new TB cases had reached 79 percent and the recovery rate reached 91 percent, a significant rise from previous years, said the ministry's spokesman Mao Qun'an at a press conference held in Beijing.

China is one of the 22 countries under high pressure of TB with the total cases ranking second in the world after India. Currently, the country has about 5 million TB patients, 80 percent of whom live in the countryside.

The national guidelines on TB control require health departments to give free examination and treatment to TB patients who are unable to afford it, according to Mao.

"Currently, all TB patients, whether in cities or in the countryside, can enjoy free examination and treatment," he told Xinhua.

To ensure TB control in rural areas, screening laboratories were set up in township health centers in underdeveloped counties last year. Health authorities also gave subsidies to township and village doctors for detecting new TB cases, Mao said.

Starting from 2001, the State Council has allocated 40 million yuan (US$5 million) every year for TB prevention and control. The fund rose to nearly 300 million yuan in 2004, he added.

In the next five years, the ministry intends to find and treat 2 million infectious lung TB patients and lower the death rate by half from the figure in 1990, said Mao.

Tuberculosis is a chronic disease that can spread by airborne particles emitted from the infected through coughing, sneezing or talking. There are 9 million new TB cases and nearly 2 million TB deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2006)

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