Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye says his ministry is looking into measures to reduce the number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in Malaysia as the current levels of the disease are “not ideal”.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a urology conference here today, he said the authorities were initially able to control the spread of TB.
“But because of illegal immigrants, the prevalence has gone up,” he added.
Although the number of reported cases had stabilised in recent years, he said, it was still not “the ideal situation”.
“We want it to be even lower.”
Lee said his ministry was conducting pilot studies on new monitoring mechanisms for the “contact points” of those infected with TB, as this was one way of managing the disease.
“Suppose you have TB and your family members are in constant contact with you. They might get infected, but symptoms may not show up immediately. They might appear in one or even up to two years.”
He said his ministry was also considering implementing blood tests to determine whether those in contact with TB patients were carrying the infection without showing symptoms.
He said the normal process involved seeing a doctor for check-ups throughout the course of two years.
Lee also spoke of the need to increase efforts to manage new TB cases caused by the influx of illegal immigrants who bypassed the mandatory screening for the disease required by the Foreign Workers’ Medical Examination Monitoring Agency.
“There are a lot of foreigners coming in and out, especially in Sabah.
“This will continue to be a problem until we can really control the movement of foreign workers,” he said, referring to some 5,000 new cases of TB reported in Sabah last year.
There were 26,168 cases of TB reported in Malaysia in 2017, compared to 24,220 cases in 2015.