25-30 per cent drop in TB case notifications in India, Indonesia, the Philippines from January-June

Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 14

Disruptions in services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to setbacks in global TB response with three high burden countries — India, Indonesia and Philippines reporting major reductions in case reporting.

A new WHO report based on data collated from over 200 countries has shown significant reductions in TB case notifications, with 25-30 per cent drops reported inIndia, Indonesia, the Philippines between January and June 2020 compared to the same 6-month period in 2019.

These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modelling, the WHO said noting that in many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from TB to the COVID-19 response.

TB data collection and reporting systems have also been negatively impacted.

“However, in line with WHO guidance, countries have taken measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on essential TB services, including by strengthening infection control. A total of 108 countries—including 21 countries with a high TB burden—have expanded the use of digital technologies to provide remote advice and support,” WHO said today.

It said prior to the COVID-19 many countries were making steady progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB), with a 9 per cent reduction in incidence seen between 2015 and 2019 and a 14 per cent drop in deaths in the same period.

Approximately 1.4 million people died from TB-related illnesses in 2019. Of the estimated 10 million people who developed TB that year, some 3 million were not diagnosed with the disease, or were not officially reported to national authorities.

The situation is even more acute for people with drug-resistant TB. About 465 000 people were newly diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2019 and, of these, less than 40 pc were able to access treatment. There has also been limited progress in scaling up access to treatment to prevent TB.

This situation could worsen if governments do not respond now, WHO said.

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