As countries across the world grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Health agency reminded everyone on Tuesday, World Tuberculosis Day 2020, that TB remains the world’s most deadly infectious disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a quarter of the global population is estimated to be infected with TB bacteria. And even if there are no signs of sickness, those infected with TB already are at greater risk of developing the disease, especially those with weakened immune systems.
In 2018, 10 million people worldwide fell ill with TB – 1.5 million fatally.
“COVID-19 is highlighting just how vulnerable people with lung diseases and weakened immune systems can be”, stressed Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The world committed to end TB by 2030 [and] improving prevention is key to making this happen”.
New WHO guidance aims to help countries accelerate efforts to stop those infected with TB from becoming sick by giving them preventive treatment, which will also cut down on the risk of transmission.
The WHO chief highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to tackle longstanding health problems, including TB, during global outbreaks such as COVID-19.
Although some progress has been made towards targets set at the UN high-level meeting on TB in 2018, TB preventive treatment has been largely inadequate.
“Millions of people need to be able to take TB preventive treatment to stop the onset of disease, avert suffering and save lives», asserted the WHO chief.