The World Health Organization reports that the COVID epidemic interrupted medical services internationally in 2021, resulting in an increase in the number of tuberculosis cases and deaths compared to the previous year.
According to the WHO’s Global TB Report 2022, 10.6 million persons contracted TB in 2021, a 4.5% rise from 2020. In 2021, 1.6 million people died from TB, an increase from 1.5 million in 2020. Drug-resistant tuberculosis cases increased by 3%.
According to a news release from the WHO, this is the first time in a lot of years that the number of TB cases and drug-resistant TB cases has increased.
The COVID-19 pandemic will interrupt numerous services in 2021, but it will have a particularly negative impact on the TB response, according to a news release. Conflicts that are still going on in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East have made things worse for vulnerable populations.
TB is an infectious disease that typically affects the lungs. The WHO claims that it is the second worst infectious killer in the world after COVID-19.
The WHO reported that because it was difficult to get medical care during the pandemic, many people went without TB diagnoses and treatment. In 2019, 7.1 million additional cases were diagnosed before the epidemic. In 2020, it dropped to 5.8 million, but in 2021, it slightly increased to 6.4 million.
The report identified a few modest increases. Between 2018 and 2021, more than 10 million people who were HIV-positive received preventive TB treatment, exceeding the global objective of 6 million. (Those who have HIV are particularly vulnerable to TB.)
In the WHO areas of Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Western Pacific, “high burden” countries were home to the majority of the TB cases reported in 2021. WHO representatives stated that health agencies must once more give TB prevention top priority.
Tereza Kasaeva, MD, director of the WHO’s Global TB Program, said in a statement that the research “provides vital new evidence and makes a strong argument on the need to join forces and urgently redouble efforts to get the TB response back-on-track to reach TB targets and save lives.”