TB claimed 1,5m lives in 2020: WHO

TUBERCULOSIS (TB) is reportedly going to become the biggest killer disease, with a World Health Organisation Global TB report (2021) noting that it was responsible for 1,5 million deaths in 2020 and continues to afflict more people.

Last Thursday during the launch of the report, International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease president Guy Marks told the media that TB would continue to be overshadowed by  the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marks said there had been little effort in pooling resources to contain TB as most resources were going towards COVID-19.

The WHO report stated that for the first time in more than 10 years, the number of deaths due to TB had increased, from 1,4 million in 2019 to 1,5 million in 2020.

“These devastating mortality numbers from the WHO Global TB report indicate that TB will return to being the biggest killer sooner than later. And that is a preventable tragedy,” he said.

The report exposed glaring gaps in timely and accurate diagnosis of TB, which is supposed to be followed by the provision of the most effective treatment which prevents death, limits illness in people who develop TB and reduces further transmission of TB.

It also showed a drop in the number of people diagnosed with TB, from 7,1 million in 2019 to 5,8 million in 2020, which might point to inefficient TB detection and testing services.

WHO says that this was mainly due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB care, including testing services.

Stijn Deborggraeve, Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) Access Campaign Diagnostics adviser said: “We cannot accept that year after year, up to 1,5 million people die from the curable disease TB, because they do not have access to the diagnostics and drugs that can save their lives.”

In Zimbabwe, TB remains one of the biggest killer diseases, especially among people living with HIV.

Each day, close to 28 000 people fall ill due to TB and nearly 4 000 people lose their lives to this preventable and curable disease.

Next week, new TB regimens for adolescents and people living with MDR TB will be announced during the 52nd Union World Conference on Lung Health.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and South African Health minister Mathume Joseph Phaahla will address the virtual conference.—NewsDay

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