IT’S TIME! At-risk groups urged to get LTBI screening as Taiwan continues campaign to end TB

    In response to the theme of World Tuberculosis Day 2019 –“IT’S TIME” – Taiwan Centers for Disease Control held an event called “End TB by Taking Action Now” at Taipei City’s Youth Park on March 22. The event demonstrated public health advocates’ urgent efforts to eliminate TB. Participants included Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Ho Chi-kung, Taiwan CDC Director-General Chou Jih-haw, members of an advisory council for TB elimination, and representatives from NGOs. The event spokesman was Taipei Universiade javelin gold medalist Cheng Chao-tsun. Officials, academics, and members of the medical community took the lead in getting screened for latent TB infection (LTBI). Together they called on people at risk of latent infection to get tested, so that they can start treatment before the disease develops. The participants also called for the public to recognize the importance of TB prevention and treatment.

    During the event, Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Ho thanked public health and healthcare workers for their efforts to fight TB. Taiwan’s TB incidence rate has steadily declined from 73 cases per 100,000 people (16,472 TB cases reported) in 2005, to 41 cases per 100,000 (9,759 cases reported) in 2017. Estimates indicate that the 2018 incidence rate will be 37 cases per 100,000 people (8,825 cases reported), which represents a 9 percent reduction year-on-year. Taiwan’s performance in TB prevention and treatment puts it above Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and others in the region. Taiwan Anti-Tuberculosis Association head Yu Ming-chi said that treating LTBI was an important component to eradicating TB. He said public health workers and medical personnel were key assets for TB prevention and control, and he urged proactive screening and treatment whenever there is the risk of TB exposure. Event spokesman Cheng said he had experienced many lows in his career, and had to overcome them by taking an urgent and timely approach to his training. He said that this approach helped him prevail on the field and would also help Taiwan overcome TB, if the approach is applied in the steady work of disease prevention.

    Taiwan CDC said that according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, one-fourth of the world’s population has LTBI. In Taiwan, an estimated 15 percent of people exposed to TB bacteria become infected, a concerning statistic for TB prevention and control. In 2008, Taiwan CDC rolled out a variety of prevention and treatment services aimed at raising public awareness about TB prevention and screening. The campaign pushed for more people to detect LTBI early and get treatment that would lower their risk of developing active TB. This year, this campaign will expand to provide screening and treatment for more exposed people, testing an estimated 20,000 more people and treating 2,490. In addition, in line with WHO guidance to provide priority health services to health workers exposed to the disease on the job, 30,000 public health and healthcare professionals will be offered free-of-charge LTBI screening. An estimated 5,000 will receive treatment services in the campaign to identify and treat LTBI early.

    Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said that people with LTBI are not contagious, but 10 percent of infected people will develop TB during their lifetime. The risk of developing the disease is very high in the first year after becoming infected with TB bacteria, and whenever the immune system is compromised. But treatment of LTBI is more than 90 percent effective, and it is the most effective way to avoid TB disease. Protect your family, friends, and yourself by getting tested and treated for latent TB infection. For more information, please visit the Taiwan CDC website at or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline at 1922 (or 0800-001922).