Covid erodes gains in fight against TB

Monday, October 25th, 2021 05:00 | By
TB testing. PHOTO/Courtesy

The Covid-19 pandemic has reversed gains made  in the fight against tuberculosis.

Latest World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2021 Global TB Report shows more people died of the  disease in 2020, with fewer people being diagnosed and treated or provided with preventive treatment compared to 2019. Approximately, 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020, including 214,000 among people with HIV.

Report further shows increase in the number of TB deaths occurred in 30 countries with the highest burden of the disease. Governments’ spending on TB has been declining across the globe, the WHO report avers.

Disruption of TB services, according to the report, was mainly due to reduced resources as human, financial and other resources were reallocated to tackle the more urgent Covid-19 pandemic.

Rampant lockdowns limited movements, making patients struggle to seek TB care and treatment.

Challenges of providing TB services were severely disrupted in 2020. For instance, the number of people newly diagnosed with the disease and those reported to national governments fell from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020. 

WHO says most people who develop the disease are adults –in 2020 - men accounted for 56 per cent of all cases, adult women accounted for 33 per cent and children for 11per cent.

Many new TB cases are attributable to five-risk factors-undernutrition, HIV infection, alcohol use disorders, smoking and diabetes.

“This report confirms our fears that the disruption of essential health services due to the pandemic could start to unravel years of progress against tuberculosis,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Ghebreyesus says the report must serve as a global wake-up call to the urgent need for investments and innovation to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for the millions of people affected by TB.

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