Thanks to a national tuberculosis preventive programme, a tuberculosis-infected man in Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Phu district is not afraid that he will transmit the disease to his infant son.

The man, who asked not to be named, had exclaimed earlier to doctors in his district clinic: "How worrying! I am afraid of giving the disease to my nine-month-old son. What can I do to prevent transmission?"

They offered to put his son through the national programme for children under five, which has been underway in the city since late 2013.

Under the programme, children whose relatives have TB are encouraged to get tested, Nguyen Hong Nguyen, the clinic's deputy head, said. If the tests prove negative for TB germs, they are given free Isoniazid, an antibiotic used both to treat and prevent TB, to drink every day for six months to prevent TB, he said.

The children in the programme are monitored for side effects and examined every month, Nguyen said, assuring that the drug does not have side effects.

The World Health Organisation estimated in 2013 that globally, up to 80,000 children die of TB and over half a million are infected each year.

In Vietnam, nearly 180,000 new cases, including 18,000 children, are found and treated every year.

Dang Minh Sang, head of the National Tuberculosis Control Division, told a recent conference that children accounted for a mere around 2 percent of the cases only because TB was difficult to diagnose in children due to a shortage of equipment.

In Vietnam, the diagnosis is based on sputum tests, and obtaining children's sputum is very difficult, he said.

According to the US's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children can develop TB at any age, but the most severe forms are most common between one and four years of age.

Children can get TB immediately after being infected or can get the disease at any time later in life. They can even infect their own children, decades later, if not treated.

District TB clinics and reproductive and child health centres provide the public with information about the programme, he said.

By the end of the first quarter this year, 62 percent of all children in the city who were in close contact with TB patients were attending the programme, he said.-VNA