Fighting tuberculosisThe Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday announced that South Korea has the highest rate of tuberculosis deaths among OECD member countries. According to the KCDC’s report, 2,376 people died of tuberculosis, half the number of traffic deaths last year. South Korea’s TB death rate per 100,000 people is 22 times higher than in the United States, and almost on par with North Korea.
TB is a common epidemic in poor countries. So how is it still widespread in a country with a GDP per capita of over $20,000?
Experts point to excessive stress, poor health habits, prejudice and a lack of a social safety net. Poor dietary habits are also a factor.
There is a deep-rooted belief in Korean society that having TB is shameful. TB patients usually prefer to conceal the fact that they’re ill, instead of seeking proper treatment.
This causes the disease to spread. TB is a communicable disease that can be transmitted through coughing and sneezing.
The increased number of homeless people who are also usually suffering from undernourishment is another cause.
Such a large number of TB deaths is a disgrace to a nation that is aiming to be an advanced country.
To eradicate the disease, the government must take proper steps.
But individuals need to help themselves by putting more emphasis on staying in good shape.
The government should establish clinics to treat TB across the nation. It also needs to reduce medical insurance premiums for TB patients in the low-income brackets, allowing them to receive medical treatment.
The government should also launch a program of visits to companies, schools and college campuses, providing chest X-rays to students and office workers who are susceptible to contracting TB because their lifestyles bring them in close contact with many other people. Medical check-ups should be also compulsory.
Finally, government officials must raise awareness of TB as a disease that should not carry the stigma of shame. Without these changes, controlling TB will be difficult.