WHO: Tuberculosis deaths increased due to the Covid-19 epidemic

The World Health Organization reports an increase in the number of deaths from tuberculosis, due to the disruption of access to health services around the world by the Covid-19 epidemic.

  • Hamad Darwish, a tuberculosis patient, asked the photographer, “What are you doing?” He said, “I want to hear your story.” He replied, “It is not my story, I am one of many.” (WHO)

Today, Thursday, the World Health Organization announced that the number of deaths from tuberculosis rose globally for the first time in a decade, due to the Covid-19 epidemic, which has hampered access to health services around the world.

“This is worrying news that should serve as a wake-up call about the urgent need for investments and innovation to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for the millions of people affected by this ancient, preventable and treatable disease,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

This represents a setback after years of progress towards tackling a curable disease that affects millions around the world.

In its annual report on tuberculosis 2020, WHO said that progress towards eliminating the disease has been hit by the increasing number of undiagnosed and treated cases.

WHO estimates that about 4.1 million people suffer from tuberculosis but have not been diagnosed or officially declared infected, compared to 2.9 million in 2019.

And Covid made the situation worse for people with tuberculosis, as funds allocated to the health sector were redirected to deal with the Corona virus, while people faced difficulties in obtaining the necessary care due to the closure measures.

Tedros said this report “confirms our concerns that the disruption to basic health services as a result of the epidemic could destabilize the progress made over the years against tuberculosis.”

About 1.5 million people died from tuberculosis in 2020, including 214,000 people living with HIV, according to the report. This compares with 1.2 million in 2019, including 209,000 infected with HIV.

Tuberculosis is the second most deadly infectious disease after Covid, and is caused by bacteria that in most cases affect the lungs.

Similar to Covid, it is transmitted in the air by infected people through coughing, for example.

Most tuberculosis cases are recorded in only 30 countries, mostly poor countries in Africa and Asia, and more than half of all cases are among adult men. Women represent 33 percent of cases, and children 11 percent.

While the World Health Organization aims to reduce deaths from tuberculosis by 90 percent, and the transmission rate by 80 percent, by 2030 compared to 2015, recent data poses a threat to this strategy, she said.

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