Tuberculosis neglected amid coronavirus pandemic, activists warn

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tuberculosis
Tuberculosis

The “profound” impact of the coronavirus pandemic and related cuts to health care left more than 4.3 million more people suffering from tuberculosis (TB) without treatment in 2020, according to the Stop TB Partnership.

Neglecting TB cases means “all but certain death for probably half that number,” the Partnership, a United Nations-linked body, said on Tuesday.

Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the partnership, warned that the roughly 50 per cent of survivors “will not only suffer the consequences of the disease but will also spread TB to many more, perpetuating the cycle of transmission.”

The prioritization of coronavirus has in turn meant 1.2 million fewer TB diagnoses so far this year compared to 2019, when 1.4 million people died from the disease, or around 4,000 a day, more than the combined malaria and HIV-AIDS death tolls.

Worldwide, around 10 million people a year contract TB, a treatable respiratory disease caused by bacteria. In 2019, around seven in 10 new cases received treatment.

The partnership said on Tuesday that spending on preventing and treating TB needs to be doubled, if hopes of ending TB by 2030, a UN goal, are to be realized.

The partnership had warned in March that lockdowns had “prevented access to TB diagnostic and treatment services” and caused a “drastic decline” in care, particularly in what it said were nine “high TB burden” countries such as India and Indonesia, which have the world’s second- and fourth-biggest populations.

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