According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus pandemic has set back the fight against tuberculosis by years. Of just under ten million people who are estimated to have contracted tuberculosis (TB) last year, only 5.8 million were diagnosed with the disease, the WHO reported in Geneva on Thursday.
In the previous year it was 7.1 million. The decline is due, among other things, to lockdowns and exit restrictions.
Second most common cause of death from infectious agents
Overloading of health services was cited as another reason. In 2020, TB was the second leading cause of death from a single infectious agent after Covid-19. A good 1.5 million people died from it, after 1.4 million in the previous year. The trend of a decline in new infections, which has been created over the years, has almost been stopped.
If the sick are unaware of their infection, they cannot be treated. The numbers for 2021 and 2022 are therefore likely to be even worse, according to the WHO. Expenditures for diagnosis, treatment and prevention decreased in 2020 from 5.8 to 5.3 billion dollars (4.6 billion euros). That is less than half as much as would be necessary according to WHO information.
Cough, tiredness and fever
Tuberculosis is a contagious infectious disease that is transmitted by droplets, such as the coughs of infected people. It mainly affects the lungs. The disease can only break out years after infection. The signs are cough, tiredness and fever. It can be cured with several months of antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, it can lead to death.
Six years ago, the WHO member countries decided to significantly contain the TB epidemic by 2030. Compared to 2015, the number of new cases per 100,000 people should decrease by 80 percent and the number of deaths by 90 percent. The intermediate targets for 2020 were clearly missed. Until then, the incidence had only decreased by eleven percent instead of the targeted 20 percent. In the case of deaths, the decrease was 9.2 instead of 35 percent.
The best results came from the WHO region of Europe, where the incidence fell by as much as 25 percent and the number of deaths fell by 26 percent, mainly due to advances in Russia.
A good quarter of all people infected with tuberculosis live in India, 8.5 percent in China and 8.4 percent in Indonesia, followed by the Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria. Eight percent of TB sufferers were infected with the HI virus, which causes immunodeficiency.