Via The New York Times: Vietnam’s Battle With Tuberculosis. Excerpt:
Dr. Bui Xuan Hiep, the head of tuberculosis control in this city’s Hoang Mai district, paged proudly through a large handwritten patient log.
“This district’s cure rate averages 90 percent,” he said. Still, Dr. Bui could see problems.
Seven patients had turned up with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis; four had been cured, two had died — and one had simply disappeared.
It’s a story repeated throughout Vietnam. The nation was once racked by a tuberculosis epidemic, one of the worst in which H.I.V. was not the driving force. But officials fought back fiercely.
Twenty-five years ago, battered by the aftermath of a long war, chronic poverty and a heavy-handed government isolated from much of the world, Vietnam had nearly 600 cases of tuberculosis for every 100,000 residents. Today, it has less than 200.
The country boasts a 90 percent cure rate for uncomplicated tuberculosis and cures 75 percent of its drug-resistant cases, easily beating the global average, 50 percent.
Indeed, public health officials worldwide have made remarkable progress against tuberculosis. Deaths from the disease have fallen drastically since 2000, according to the World Health Organization. Tuberculosis has been halted or reversed in 16 of the 22 countries that account for the vast majority of cases.
But Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, last week warned that the fight was “only half won” and estimated that 1.5 million worldwide would die of the disease this year.
There is no better example of how fragile this success may be than Vietnam. Hospital wards here are packed dangerously full, raising the risk that drug-resistant strains will spread.
The easy-to-reach patients have been treated, and many of the rest are the hardest to help: heroin-addicted couriers and laborers from the poppy fields of the nearby Golden Triangle, and mountain villagers who do not speak Vietnamese and are barely connected to the health care system.
But the biggest threat is that the money is close to running out.