Tuberculosis deaths on the rise for the first time in years

The number of tuberculosis deaths increased for the first time in more than a decade, largely because fewer people were tested and cared for as resources were diverted to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. ).

In its annual report on tuberculosis released Thursday, the UN health agency noted that 1.5 million people worldwide died from the bacterial disease last year, a slight increase from 1.4 million deaths in 2019. Traces of the disease have been found in Egyptian mummies and it is believed to have killed more people in history than any other infectious disease, including AIDS and malaria.

The WHO also noted that far fewer people were diagnosed with tuberculosis last year: 5.8 million compared to 7.1 million in 2019. The agency also estimates that about four million people have tuberculosis but have not yet been diagnosed, compared with 2.9 million people in 2020.

The disease is caused by bacteria that often infect the lungs and is highly communicable when patients cough or sneeze. About a quarter of the world’s population has a latent TB infection, which means they carry the bacteria, but have not gotten sick and cannot transmit it. Those who harbor the bacteria have a 5-10% chance of developing tuberculosis.

The disease is treatable if caught early, but drug-resistant versions have complicated treatment efforts. The countries with the highest number of tuberculosis cases are India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.

WHO noted that global investment in tuberculosis efforts has declined.

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