Tuberculosis: deaths start to rise again due to COVID

Tuberculosis: deaths start to rise again due to COVID
Tuberculosis: deaths start to rise again due to COVID

The disruption of health services due to COVID has wiped out years of the fight against tuberculosis, with deaths on the rise for the first time in more than a decade, the WHO warned on Thursday.

And the situation seems far from improving, as a growing number of people do not know they have the disease, which can be treated and cured, worries the World Health Organization, in its report. Tuberculosis Annual Report for 2020.

WHO estimates that around 4.1 million people have tuberculosis, but have not been diagnosed or have not been officially declared, a figure sharply up from 2.9 million in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of global progress in the fight against tuberculosis, a disease caused by the tubercle bacillus that most commonly affects the lungs.

According to the report, there were 214,000 deaths from tuberculosis among those living with HIV last year (up from 209,000 in 2019) and 1.3 million deaths from tuberculosis among other people (up from 1.2 million in 2019). That is to say a total of some 1.5 million deaths, a situation that sends the world back to 2017, worries the WHO.

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

“This is alarming news that should serve as a global wake-up call to the urgent need to invest and innovate to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for millions of people. people affected by this old, but preventable and treatable disease, ”he added.

The rise in deaths jeopardizes the WHO strategy to reduce deaths from the disease by 90% and the incidence rate of tuberculosis by 80% by 2030, compared to 2015.

However, according to the organization’s projections, the number of people developing tuberculosis and dying from this disease could be “much higher in 2021 and 2022”.

In addition to the confinements that have complicated patient access to healthcare centers, the negative impacts of the pandemic on essential tuberculosis control services are numerous, with COVID-19 vampirizing healthcare personnel and financial and technical resources.

The number of people newly diagnosed and declared tuberculosis by the authorities thus fell to 5.8 million in 2020, against 7.1 million in 2019, which represents a drop of 18% compared to the 2012 level.

The countries that have contributed the most to the global reduction in TB notifications between 2019 and 2020 are India, Indonesia, the Philippines and China. These and 12 other countries accounted for 93% of the total global decrease in notifications.

The supply of preventive treatment against tuberculosis has also suffered: some 2.8 million people had access to it in 2020, a reduction of 21% in one year.

In addition, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB has declined by 15%, from 177,000 in 2019 to 150,000 in 2020, which equates to only about 1 in 3 of those in need.

Global spending on TB diagnostic, treatment and prevention services also fell, from $ 5.8 billion to $ 5.3 billion, less than half of the global funding target for TB. the fight against the disease which is 13 billion dollars per year by 2022.

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