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WHO report: Tuberculosis mortality increased during COVID-19 with 1.6 million deaths in 2021

According to the World Health Organization’s 2022 Global TB report, 10.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis (TB) in 2021, an increase of 4.5% from 2020, and 1.6 million people died from TB (including 1,87,000 HIV + individuals).

The burden of drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) also increased by 3% between 2020 and 2021, with 4,50,000 new cases of rifampicin-resistant TB (RR-TB) in 2021.For the first time in many years, an increase in the number of TB and drug-resistant TB cases has been documented.

TB services are among many others disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, but its impact on the TB response has been particularly severe. Ongoing conflicts across Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East have further exacerbated the situation for vulnerable populations.

‘If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that with solidarity, determination, innovation and the equitable use of tools, we can overcome severe health threats. Let’s apply those lessons to tuberculosis. It is time to put a stop to this long-time killer. Working together, we can end TB,’ said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Numerous TB patients were not identified and treated as a result of ongoing difficulties in delivering and gaining access to basic TB care. A reported 5.8 million people had a new TB diagnosis in 2020, down from 7.1 million in 2019. 6.4 million people experienced a partial recovery in 2021, but this was still far below pre-pandemic levels.

Reductions in the reported number of cases of TB point to an increase in the number of cases of undiagnosed and untreated TB, resulting first in an increased number of TB deaths and more community transmission of infection and then, with some lag-time, increased numbers of people developing TB.


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