The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday warned that the global coronavirus pandemic threatens to reverse progress towards eliminating tuberculosis, which is considered as the world’s most deadly infectious disease, reported Al Jazeera.
The WHO said countries such as India and South Africa that are hit hard by tuberculosis Africa have seen resources usually allocated to diagnosing and treating TB diverted to fighting coronavirus. The international health body said there were significant reductions in the reporting and monitoring of new TB cases in the first half of 2020, as countries imposed lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind the gains made over recent years,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. ” Data collated by WHO from high TB burden countries show sharp drops in TB notifications in 2020.”
As per the WHO report, TB is estimated to cause this year between 200,000 and 400,000 more deaths than the 1.4 million last year, even though remedies exist.
The report said that in India, weekly and monthly notifications plunged by 50 percent from the end of March to end of April following a lockdown in the country. It said a similar trend was observed in South Africa between March and June.
The WHO report said the reductions in TB case notifications could likely result in a dramatic increase in the number of deaths.
The humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said that it was disheartening to see that governments worldwide were not on track to reach testing and treatment goals for the disease.
“TB has remained a burden throughout the course of human history, so isn’t it about time that governments got more serious about tackling this killer disease,” said Sharonann Lynch, MSF’s senior adviser on TB and HIV-AIDS.
Lynch said governments need to come up with a catch-up plan as COVID-19 is causing backtracking on TB testing.