This article was originally published on Global Development, The Guardian
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in nearly a 25% decrease in diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis around the world, according to research published in March 2021 by a coalition working to end TB.
Twelve months of Covid-19 has reversed 12 years of global progress against tuberculosis, worse than previously estimated.
“Due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on services, the number of people diagnosed and treated for TB in the worst-affected countries has dropped back to 2008 levels, said Stop TB Partnership’s executive director, Lucica Ditiu. A modelling study published last year estimated a setback of five to eight years.”
“The effect on countries has depended on their existing disease burden. Data from India and South Africa showed people infected with both TB and Covid-19 are three times more likely to die than those infected with TB alone, meaning preventive steps such as contact tracing and testing are essential in keeping rates low.”
Every year TB infects 10 million people and kills 1.5 million, more than any other infectious disease. Although Covid-19 overtook TB in 2020 as the most common cause of death from an infectious disease, TB still kills more people than Covid in low- and middle-income countries.
“Some countries have fought hard to reverse the setbacks. India’s health ministry, after seeing a 70% drop in TB notifications in the first four months of 2020, integrated TB outreach into Covid-19 programming.”
TB did not disappear when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Instead, people got distracted, health workers were redirected and health systems became overwhelmed, said India’s minister of health, Harsh Vardhan.