Tuberculosis is a major worldwide threat and the pandemic could make it worse, WHO says

Rose Blan

In a new report, WHO provides a global update on the state of TB and the fight against the disease, which is both preventable and curable. The report paints a dire picture of a disease that remains a public health crisis. Just eight countries — India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, […]

In a new report, WHO provides a global update on the state of TB and the fight against the disease, which is both preventable and curable.

The report paints a dire picture of a disease that remains a public health crisis. Just eight countries — India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa — account for two-thirds of the world’s TB cases. And because many carriers of the disease are not yet ill, it can go untreated until it’s too late.

Tuberculosis incidences are falling, the agency says — between 2015 and 2019, cases were reduced by about 9 percent. But that still falls short of WHO’s targets.

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to make things worse.

Large drops occurred in TB diagnoses between January and June. Due to the economic effects of the pandemic, WHO models predict that cases could annually increase by more than 1 million in the next five years if resources continue to be diverted to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The stark report has positive news however. Funding for TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment has doubled since 2006, and seven high-burden countries reached their death reduction milestone. And people living with HIV are more likely than ever to be given preventive treatment for tuberculosis, which is the leading killer of people with HIV worldwide.

The report is available online or as an interactive app. To download, visit bit.ly/TBreportapp.

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