Proliferation of foreign workers among causes of rising TB cases

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 27, 2013): The overcrowding of foreign workers is among the causes of tuberculosis (TB) being detected in the country, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

"There were 58 cases per 100,000 in 1995 and it rose to 63 cases in 2008 which is 16,000 cases annually. The disease has also risen to 18,000 cases in 2010.

"In 2011, there were 20,000 cases reported with 1,600 fatalities and about 12 to 13 per cent of TB patients were foreign workers," he told reporters after opening a seminar on Foreign Workers Medical Examination and Monitoring Agency (Fomema) Medical and X-Ray Examination here today.

According to Subramaniam, there were 1.3 million foreign workers in the country in 2008, falling to 1.02 million in 2009, 951,943 in 2010, 935,043 in 2011 before increasing to 1.3 million last year following the 6P amnesty programme for illegal workers.

Subramaniam stressed that any foreign worker wishing to work here had to undergo two health screenings, one in the country of origin and one in Malaysia.

"Some workers who passed the screening in their country of origin but failed the test here will be repatriated. We hope the health screening in their countries of origin could be improved," he said while adding that foreign workers who failed the health checks here were from Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Subramaniam said about three to seven per cent of the 1.3 million foreign workers who did not undergo the two health screenings were found to be suffering from TB, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, HIV and leprosy. – Bernama