Overview of tuberculosis in Hong Kong educational institutions in first half of 2022

     The Tuberculosis and Chest Service (TB&CS) of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) announced today (August 26) the tuberculosis (TB) notifications in educational institutions in the first half of 2022. In view of the upcoming commencement of the new school year, stakeholders of schools, including school management, students and parents are reminded to maintain personal and environmental hygiene at all times to prevent TB infections.

      The TB&CS received 1 577 notifications of TB cases (provisional figure) from January to June 2022, of which 58 cases (3.68 per cent) were aged 3 to 24 (usual school age). During the same period, there was one cluster of TB cases, comprising two cases, in school settings. The data of the cluster has been uploaded to the TB&CS statistics webpage.

     In 2020 and 2021, the proportion of TB cases for the age group 3 to 24 to the total notified cases were 5.53 per cent and 4.06 per cent respectively.

     "Despite a marked and consistent decrease in the notification rate in the past few decades, TB remains a relatively common disease in Hong Kong. Moreover, clustering of TB cases in the educational institutions occurs from time to time. It is often related to delayed presentation or diagnosis of the case due to its long latent period, which in turn affects early identification," a spokesman for the DH said.

     The spokesman explained that TB is an airborne disease. When a TB patient coughs or sneezes, small droplets containing the tubercle bacilli are generated and spread in the air. If another person breathes in these small airborne droplets, he or she may be infected with the germ. Prolonged exposure, however, is usually the most important condition for the disease to be effectively transmitted.

     Early identification of TB cases and prompt initiation of anti-TB treatment remain the mainstay of TB control. The TB&CS also conducts contact investigation for the close contacts of the index case where necessary. The TB&CS has also prepared guidelines on handling TB cases in the school setting for reference by schools. For more information, the guidelines are available at the TB&CS guideline website.

     The TB&CS of the CHP endeavours to promote awareness of TB and its prevention in schools, the community and the healthcare sector so as to facilitate early identification, diagnosis and effective control of the disease at its source.

     â€‹Members of the public should maintain continued vigilance against TB and adopt a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, avoid smoking and alcohol, and have suitable exercise and adequate rest. If symptoms develop, such as persistent cough, blood in sputum, weight loss, fever and night sweating, they should seek prompt medical advice. If diagnosed as having TB, a patient should observe respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, and receive TB treatment under supervision. For more TB-related information, services and figures, the public may also visit the website of the TB&CS or call the hotline (2572 6024).

Ends/Friday, August 26, 2022
Issued at HKT 11:30