The United Nations last month hailed a “significant worldwide recovery” in efforts to rein in tuberculosis, marking “an encouraging trend starting to reverse the detrimental effects of COVID-19 disruptions on TB services.”
A UN report found that 7.5 million people received new TB diagnosis in 2022 – the highest figure since the agency began to monitor TB globally in 1995. That is actually good news, after the diagnosis and treatment of TB plummeted in the first years of the pandemic, which allowed the disease to rebound following years of decline.
Disruptions linked to COVID are estimated to have resulted in nearly half a million excess TB deaths between 2020 and 2022.
The WHO hailed that the new figures showed that “this has started to reverse or moderate the damaging impact of the pandemic on the number of people dying from or falling ill with TB.”
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is hopeful that the shift could signal that the world is again committed to eradicating tuberculosis.
The disease, which is caused by a bacteria that most often affects the lungs, last year remained the world’s second leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, after COVID-19.
Global efforts to combat TB have saved around 75 million lives since 2000, according to the WHO, which stressed more was needed. While deaths are trending downward, the number of new infections is still rising.
For the Philippines, which is among the eight countries that share two thirds of the global TB burden, our health officials that may have been distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic will have to recommit to eradicating this infectious, potentially deadly, but easily treatable disease.
The good news is that we should already know how to do it. All we need is a government that is willing and determined to put in the necessary work and prioritize the resources necessary, as we were well on our way to eradicating tuberculosis until we were sidetracked.*