Only 5.8 million patients out of a total of 10 million have been officially diagnosed with tuberculosis

The coronavirus pandemic severely affects the fight against tuberculosis. Globally, tuberculosis was the deadliest infectious disease after COVID-19 in 2020. About 1.5 million people died from this condition. Currently, the most affected territories are India, China and Southeast Asia.

The measures imposed against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, including traffic restrictions, as well as the pressure generated on the health system around the world, have had a significant impact on TB patients. In 2019, the number of those diagnosed with tuberculosis was 7.1 million. Last year, however, out of an estimated 10 million patients, only 5.8 could be diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Without treatment, almost half of TB patients die

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease that is transmitted through drops, such as coughing to infected people. It mainly affects the lungs. The disease can also be triggered even years after infection. In most cases, those infected are carriers of the pathogen without showing any symptoms. The main signal that attracts attention in such cases is cough, which can become bloody as the disease progresses. Other symptoms include fatigue and fever.

People with a weakened immune system are especially affected. With antibiotic treatment that lasts for several months, tuberculosis can be cured. However, pathogens are developing more and more resistance. Without treatment, almost half of those infected die.

The situation will worsen over the next two years

In 2020, after COVID-19, tuberculosis was the deadliest infectious disease. A number of 1.5 million people died because of it, compared to 1.4 million in 2019. The declining trend in the number of new infections, created over the years, has almost been stopped. Therefore, the figures for 2021 and 2022 are likely to be even worse, according to the WHO.

Expenditure on diagnosis, treatment and prevention has fallen in 2020 from $ 5.8 billion to $ 5.3 billion (4.6 billion euros). That is less than half of what would be needed, according to WHO information.

Six years ago, WHO member states decided to significantly limit the TB epidemic by 2030. Compared to 2015, the number of new cases per 100,000 people should decrease by 80% and the number of deaths by 90%. The mid-term targets for 2020 have obviously been missed. Until then, the incidence had decreased by only 11% instead of the proposed 20%. In the case of deaths, the decrease was 9.2% to 35%.

The best results came from Europe, where the incidence fell by up to 25% and the number of deaths by 26%, mainly due to progress in Russia. A quarter of all people infected with tuberculosis live in India, 8.5% in China and 8.4% in Indonesia, followed by the Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria.

There is a vaccine against tuberculosis. The so-called BCG serum is based on mycobacteria. Vaccine protection is not considered to be very reliable, but people in risk areas benefit from vaccination.

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