TUBERCULOSIS experts have warned that as many as 1m people may die from the ailment worldwide as a result of the emphasis on the Covid-19 virus that has forced health practitioners to neglect other vital areas.
So far, 23.8m people have been affected by the coronavirus globally, of which 818,265 have died across 215 countries and territories. Dr Mustapha Gidado, new executive director at KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, added that coronavirus seems to be getting major attention globally in healthcare services to the detriment of other equally important routine healthcare services like tuberculosis, immunisation, etc.
Dr Gidado, who is the first non-Dutch professional to head the organisation, also explained that tuberculosis innovation and interventions have to be made simple and scaled up to achieve significant results of detecting missing cases, raising the index of suspicion by healthcare workers, and effectively treating patients. Like Covid-19, tuberculosis affects the breathing of patients.
“We are all going through a trying moment with the Covid-19 pandemic globally and with over 20m already infected and affected, we are already heading to a million deaths which are quite unfortunate and unprecedented. The impact of Covid-19 on tuberculosis is overwhelming, modelling and experience have shown, with the intervention in preventing Covid-19 spread, unfortunately, has come with the destruction of services, with the massive impact on health services.
“It is estimated that over 6.5m more tuberculosis patients will be affected in the near future and unfortunately, we might end up recording over 1m deaths secondary to tuberculosis. All these due to the massive impact of Covid-19 on the health system in general.
“However, Covid-19 even though negatively impacting the healthcare services with a significant amount of other diseases suffering, it is our own thinking and believes that we can also leverage a lot from the existing resources on Covid-19 to mainstream support to the health system, for the overall impact on other diseases including tuberculosis. Right now, if we don’t manage stigma generally, then people who are potentially having Covid-19 may be scared of going to health care facilities not to be said to have tuberculosis or vice versa.
“Some individuals with respiratory symptoms that could have been tuberculosis might end up not being in the health facility to be early diagnosed with Covid-19 and put on treatment on time. The overall impact of Covid-19 response on tuberculosis is in many fronts. One of the common ones is the fact that there is total destruction in the health system because everyone within the health system is concentrating on the response to Covid-19,” Dr Gidado added.
He added that it is not only tuberculosis that is suffering as other health services are also feeling the impact of the response to Covid-19. Dr Gidado said these range from immunisation to antenatal clinic attendance, to other regular clinics like diabetes.