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190 multidrug resistant TB patients committed

A total of 190 multidrug-resistant tuberculosis patients have been ordered to check in to hospitals by the government this year, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Friday.

This is the first time MDR-TB patients were forced to receive treatment for the disease by law, which was implemented in 1967.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an affiliate of the ministry, the number of patients ordered to be isolated from the public for having a highly infectious but hard-to-cure strain of tuberculosis rose to 190 between April and July.

Unlike ordinary tuberculosis, drugs available on the market are ineffective for MDR-TB. The strain is classified as hard-to-cure disease by field experts.

Doctors are required to report such patients to the government. If the patients do not follow the doctors’ treatment regime or his or her symptoms are assumed to be highly contagious, the state may issue the hospitalization order.

The KCDC said the order was issued as part of its “2030 scheme” to bring TB prevalence below the 10 per 100,000 level from the current 680.

“Though there was a law, there had never been budget for execution of the scheme. This year, we have managed to secure funds for the hospitalization,” a KCDC official told The Korea Herald.

“But the high number of committed patients does not mean that the number of all TB patients has soared or that the disease has suddenly become exceptionally contagious this year,” she added.

According to the National Health Insurance Corporation, the number of newly registered TB cases in 2009 was 35,845 and a total of 71,226 people were treated for the disease. The number of MDR-TB patients was around 3,000.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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