SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Korea Bizwire) — The number of new tuberculosis (TB) patients dropped slightly in 2016 from the previous year, government data showed Friday, amid the government increasing the number of dedicated doctors and other medical staff charged with treating the contagious disease in recent years.
South Korea had the highest incidence rate of TB among the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2015 with as many as 80 out of every 100,000 South Koreans having been infected with the disease in the cited year, trailed by Portugal with 23, according to OECD statistics.
The number of new TB patients fell to 30,892, or 60.4 out of every 100,000 persons, last year from 32,181, or 63.2 out of every 100,000, in 2015, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
About 84.3 percent of TB patients were completely cured last year, up from 80.1 percent the previous year, KCDC data showed.
The government plans to lower the rate of new patients to less than 12 out of every 100,000 persons, the average for OECD member states, by 2025.
The government has employed 204 medical staff to take charge of TB patients at private medical centers and additional 106 staff at public health facilities across the country.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced regulations last month to require hospitals, healthcare facilities, schools, kindergartens and any other childcare facilities to conduct TB tests, including the inactive variant, on all new workers within one month of employment to prevent the spread of the disease.
The regulations aim to prevent possible TB infection among employees who work closely with infants and children as inactive TB can pose health risks.
Last year, a total of 118 newborns were infected with inactive TB at an obstetrics clinic in Seoul after a nurse with TB started working at the clinic without being detected.