The number of Koreans newly infected with tuberculosis decreased by 6.4 percent in 2018 from a year earlier, government data showed. About 45.5 percent of them were aged 65 or more.
According to data by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new TB patients stood at 26,433 or 51.5 per 100,000 people in 2018, down 6.4 percent from 28,161 (55 per 100,000) in 2017.
The number of new TB patients hit a record high of 39,557 in 2011 and has steadily declined for seven consecutive years since. However, Korea still has the highest TB incidence among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Among TB patients, those aged 65 or more went up by 231 (2 percent) to 12,029 last year. The seniors accounted for 45.5 percent of the total TB patients.
The number of expatriates with TB dropped by 234 (14.3 percent) to 1,398 in 2018. Among them, 88 (6.3 percent) had multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis, while 530 (2.1 percent) Koreans had MDR TB.
The number of deaths caused by TB was sliding down to 1,816 in 2017 from 2,209 in 2015. However, the TB treatment success rate among new TB patients stagnated at 81.8 percent in 2018 from 83.3 percent in 2016.
“The number of the elderly TB patients rose due to the population aging, weakening of their immunity and an increase in underlying medical conditions. As TB shows no symptoms, it is hard to detect it early. We need more active TB testing and management,” KCDC said.
As more foreigners from countries with a high ratio of TB patients come to Korea and stay here for a long time, the Korean health authorities need to screen foreign TB patients early through regular checkups and management, it added.
Under the “Second Comprehensive Plan on TB Management for 2018-2022,” the government plans to collect expert opinions and announce a measure to enhance TB control within the first half.
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