Based on the preliminary data released by World Health Organization (WHO), the disruptions in health services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a 21 per cent decrease in tuberculosis (TB) notification in the year 2020.
The reduction in the notification of the cases has led to half a million additional deaths caused by the disease simply because those people could not get access to proper treatment.
The data compiled from 80 countries showed that while 6.3 million TB infections were notified in 2019, the figure fell to 4.9 million in 2020 suggesting that about 1.4 million people did not even receive treatment for TB last year.
The countries with the biggest shortfall in average monthly notification compared to 2019 are Indonesia (42 per cent) followed by South Africa (41 per cent), the Philippines (37 per cent) and India (25 per cent).
"The effects of Covid-19 go far beyond the death and disease caused by the virus itself. The disruption to essential services for people with TB is just one tragic example of the ways the pandemic is disproportionately affecting some of the world's poorest people, who were already at higher risk for TB," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Since the symptoms of both TB and Covid-19 like cough, fever, and breathlessness are all similar, more rigorous testing of TB is necessary.
WHO has asked the countries to scale-up testing for TB, along with COVID-19 and recommended home-based and community-based prevention and care in addition to hospital treatment for TB patients so that the transmission of the disease is under control.
The new guidance issued by WHO aims to help countries identify the specific needs of communities, the populations at highest risk of TB, and the locations most affected to ensure people can access the most appropriate prevention and care services.
The systemic use of molecular rapid diagnostic tests, computer-aided detection to interpret chest radiography and the use of a wider range of approaches for screening people living with HIV for TB are some of the ways suggested by WHO to achieve the goal.