BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Altogether 186 citizens and permanent residents in Brunei were newly diagnosed with tuberculosis(TB), an increase from 162 new cases in 2015, or a 14.8 percent year-on-year rise, Haji Zulkarnain, the country's minister of health said on Friday.
In the past three years, 13 people have died from TB. "Sadly, Brunei continues to be classified as a medium-burden TB country," the minister said.
Despite the investments made in TB care and control, the country still faces significant challenges. A major challenge in TB control for Brunei is the increase in the number of people with chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes weakens an individual's immune system and makes that person more susceptible to acquiring TB, and also reactivation of old TB infections, Zulkarnain said.
The rise in NCDs, along with an ageing population that are more vulnerable to TB reactivation, and smoking contribute to the ongoing TB incidence in Brunei. Consequently, the prevention and control of NCDs are of particular importance in the fight against TB in the country.
"This is why our TB elimination strategy is not solely based on treating the acute infection but is an integrated approach that takes into account both social issues as well as other NCDs that increase the risk of acquiring TB," Zulkarnain said.