A growing number of youngsters are contracting tuberculosis, especially those in their 20s, due to poor health from irregular// living and excessive weight loss, according to a report.
Last year about one fifth of tuberculosis patients were people in their 20s.
According to the report of the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 41,950 people contracted tuberculosis in 2006, an average of 115 people per day.
By age group, those in their 20s, who are usually believed to be the healthiest age group, outnumbered other age groups, with 7,763 patients _ an average 21 people per day.
The second largest group was those aged 70 and over, 7,578 patients, followed by 6,631 people in their 30s and 6,397 in their 40s.
The health authorities say the increase in the number of young tuberculosis patients is because the efficacy of BCG vaccine, which people are injected with when they are babies to protect against tuberculosis, usually declines when they are in their late teens.
But experts also say it is a result of youngsters' weak physical strength.
``As one third of Koreans have the tubercle bacilli, they have a chance to develop the disease when their immunity decreases or when they get stressed,'' a staff member of the Korean National Tuberculosis Association said.
He cited some causes as deterioration of physical strength, irregular lifestyle, lack of exercise and excessive weight loss.
According to a report from the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2005, 16.7 percent of people skipped breakfast (38 percent of twenty year olds; followed by 23 percent of teenagers), indicating a lack of nutrition leads to weak stamina.
The number of teenage tuberculosis patients is increasing _ 2,365 in 2004, 2,614 in 2005 and 2,825 last year.
``The number of tuberculosis patients has been decreasing little by little in all age groups
except teenagers. We suspect it is due to stress they have from studying for college entrance exams,'' the staff member said.
It is important to have good nutrition and undergo a regular checkup to prevent contracting tuberculosis, and those having the disease need about six months of treatment for a complete recovery, he said.
In 2005, 5.9 people per 100,000 population died from tuberculosis, the largest number among members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.
Tuberculosis bacilli usually develop into pulmonary tuberculosis. The patients suffer from coughing, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and fever.
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