In support of World TB Day on 24 March, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), of which ERS is a founding member, joins the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign urging governments to act on the commitments made to end tuberculosis (TB).
According to the WHO, each day nearly 4,000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease; this equates to 1.5 million deaths and 10 million people falling ill to TB each year. Despite significant progress against TB in recent years, 3 million people with TB disease are still undiagnosed. 1 in 3 people with TB do not access quality care for reasons ranging from gaps in research and development and insufficient or underfunded health services, to long and difficult treatments or because of stigma.
Ahead of World TB Day Prof. Ivan Solovic, ERS Advocacy Council TB expert, said:
“TB has remained the deadliest infectious disease over the past five years. Worryingly, modelling by the Stop TB Partnership suggests that disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 6% reduction in the detection of TB cases in the last 6 months, meaning we could expect to see a 26% increase in TB deaths later on, returning us to TB mortality levels last seen in 2012.
“Fear of COVID has caused governments and health systems to impose restrictions and limit access to health services, but by continuing to discourage people from seeking healthcare early for the diagnosis and treatment of TB, we risk erasing the hard-won advances made in the last decade in combating TB. The risk of death in patients with TB is close to 50% if treatment is missed, so it is essential that the provision of healthcare in patients with TB is not disrupted further, even during the ongoing pandemic.”
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals targets and the United Nations High-Level Meeting commitments by 2030 and 2022 respectively, governments must accelerate their investments and actions to ensure access to quality TB prevention and care.
FIRS calls for urgent action to advance TB prevention through rapid scale up of access to preventive treatment for TB infection for those most at risk of falling ill of TB including:
- Four million children under five years of age
- 20 million other household contacts of people affected by TB
- Six million people living with HIV and AIDS.
“Time is running out. Globally, we are falling short of the target to provide at least 30 million people with TB preventive treatment by 2022.” said Mark Cohen, President of FIRS. “We are at a critical time, as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot put End TB progress at risk.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world aware of how deadly respiratory viruses can be. We have seen how public health and political will can be mobilised quickly and it’s time for us to treat TB as the emergency that it is.
TB resources and activities
- MEP Lung Health Group event: ‘Tuberculosis research and investment – lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic’ – 24 March at 14:00 CET [online]
- ERS Course: ‘Masterclass on pulmonary and pleural infections – Focus on tuberculosis’ – 29 May [Online]