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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - 'DOTS' Program Helps Reduce Tuberculosis Rates in China - 2004-08-08

Broadcast: August 9, 2004

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization says tuberculosis rates have dropped in China thanks to the DOTS program. DOTS is a way for countries to try to control tuberculosis.

The full name is directly observed treatment-short course. Directly observed means that someone watches to make sure people take their daily medicine. Full treatment usually lasts from six to eight months.

Some people stop as soon as they feel better. That only makes the infection more difficult to treat. The patient also remains a risk to others.

The DOTS program calls for strong government support.

China started its program with help from the World Bank and the W.H.O. in nineteen-ninety-one. Health officials established the program in half the population. After ten years researchers did a national study of tuberculosis.

Doctors estimated there were thirty percent fewer cases in the DOTS half than in the other half of the population. The W.H.O. says the results prove that the program should be expanded throughout China.

More than one million new cases of tuberculosis are reported in China each year. India has a worse situation. The W.H.O. estimates that forty percent of the eight million people in the world with TB live in China or India. But the agency says those two countries and others have made progress to reduce rates of infection.

The rates are up, however, in southern Africa and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The AIDS virus is to blame in Africa. Someone with H.I.V. is ten times more likely to become infected with tuberculosis.

The situation is different in the former Soviet republics. Experts say the disease is spreading there mostly because infected people are not taking their medicine correctly.

A bad cough is not the only sign of tuberculosis. Others include pain in the chest, increased body temperature and coughing up blood. The bacteria spread through the air when the person coughs or sneezes.

Each year about two million people die from tuberculosis. The World Health Organization wants to expand the DOTS program to more countries. In two thousand two, only thirty-seven percent of all cases were treated this way.

The United Nations wants to cut in half the number of TB cases by two thousand fifteen.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.