Coronavirus pandemic could burden global tuberculosis fight: Report

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: May 07, 2020, 09:38 PM(IST)

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Story highlights

The current lockdown has disrupted the basic service of TB diagnosis, treatment, and prevention for 2 months in almost every country.

A new report from tuberculosis research and advocacy group suggests the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns could have a devastating impact on the global TB burden in the coming years.

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The analysis is focused on three high-TB burden countries—India, Kenya, and Ukraine, where disruption of TB care could have a significant impact.

The current lockdown has disrupted the basic service of TB diagnosis, treatment, and prevention for 2 months in almost every country.

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Once the lockdown ends, it would take another 2 months to get TB services back up and running, and that could result in a rapidly growing pool of undetected and untreated TB patients.

Up to 6.3 million more people are predicted to develop TB between now and 2025 and 1.4 million more people are expected to die as cases go diagnosed and untreated during the lockdown.

Under normal conditions, TB already kills 1.5 million people a year, more than any other infectious disease.

 The past few years have seen a steady decline in TB deaths as a result of more services to treat the disease and prevent its spread, but coronavirus lockdown will set back global efforts to end TB by five to eight years.

Meanwhile, in India, the number of TB notifications have dropped by 80 per cent as many people with TB symptoms are avoiding to visit the hospital during the lockdown.

Even for those people who are battling cancer, the impact of lockdown can be terrifying and life-threatening.

Oncologists have raised concerns about the delayed diagnosis of cancer and its stage migration due to fear of visiting hospitals amid the outbreak.
 
For 56-year-old Anita Watson diagnosed with a stage 4 breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, the coronavirus outbreak has cast her into even greater uncertainty.

Worried about the potentially fatal risk if she were to catch the virus herself, she also has to deal with the fact that the overloaded health services no longer consider her a priority

Anita Watson said: "If you've got any problems if you feel ill, unwell you can pick up the phone and get through to the chemotherapy ward and they're going to treat you. They're going to sort it out straight away. Now with coronavirus and with them saying you're no longer a priority, what that actually means is that, unfortunately, and quite rightly so, they have to treat the curable cases first."
 
While COVID-19 restrictions have varied from country to country, many countries have implemented stay-at-home strategies lasting several weeks.

Routine surgeries and procedures have been put off at hospitals in several countries as they adjust to treating the influx of patients with COVID-19 and possible shortages of beds, protective equipment and supplies.

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