For the first time in over a decade, number of TB deaths rises

The Covid-19 pandemic has reversed years of global progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB) and for the first time in over a decade, the number of deaths due to the disease has increased, according to the World Health Organisation’s 2021 Global TB report, released on Thursday.

In 2020, not only did the number of deaths due to TB increase, but fewer people with the disease were diagnosed and treated, compared to 2019, and overall spending on essential TB services also dropped.

TB treatment and services were among many others disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but the impact on TB has been particularly severe. For example, approximately, 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020 (including 2,14,000 among HIV positive people). The increase in the number of TB deaths occurred mainly in the 30 countries with the highest burden of TB, including India.

Modelling projections by the WHO suggest that the number of people developing TB and dying from the disease could be much higher in 2021 and 2022.

Challenges with providing and accessing essential TB services have meant that many people with TB were not diagnosed in 2020. The number of people newly diagnosed with TB and those reported to national governments fell from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020.

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