A questionnaire was applied by Government Health Visitors in Hong Kong to 201 consecutive patients with smear-positive, and 199 with smear-negative pulmonary tuberculosis who were attending one of the 7 full-time Government chest clinics for the first time on account of their current illness. Information was obtained about the symptoms of the disease and its diagnosis and management outside the Government service, and about patients' knowledge of and attitudes towards the Government service. Among the 343 patients who sought treatment because of respiratory symptoms, the first symptom for the great majority (81 %) was cough, 15 % having sputum and 27 % haemoptysis as well. However, treatment was sought by only 15 % because of cough alone, compared with 40 % because of haemoptysis. Most patients (76 %) attended their first source of treatment or investigation within a month of the onset of symptoms, but some allowed long delays, and only 35 %attended a Government chest clinic within a month (whether this was the first source of treatment or not). The first source attended was a private practitioner for 53 %of the patients, another private medical establishment for 4 %,a Government chest clinic for only 11 %and another Government medical establishment for 17 %;9 %went first to a herbalist and 5 %went to a drugstore or treated themselves. The delays between the patients' first attendance at a source of treatment and their first attendance at a Government clinic were important, because outside the Government chest clinics only 49 % were investigated by chest radiograph and only 7 % by sputum bacteriology. Only 33 % were even suspected of having pulmonary tuberculosis, and many were correspondingly inadequately treated. The patients were, in general, ill informed about the Government chest clinic service; 52 % did not know, before their current illness, of the existence of the service, only 9 % knew that it was free, and only 12 % that it specialised in the management of tuberculosis. This study thus revealed a need to educate the public about the symptoms of tuberculosis, and about the possibility of their being investigated and treated, free, in a Government chest clinic.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine