TB Deadliest Infectious Disease Worldwide After COVID-19 in 2021

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03/28/2023

The number of deaths from tuberculosis is on the rise as the illness has been recorded as the world's deadliest infectious disease after COVID-19 in 2021, killing 1.6 million people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Tuberculosis is an airborne contagious infection that can affect all tissues and organs such as lungs, bones, eyes and skin. Although it is possible to treat it thanks to scientific studies, tuberculosis continues to claim a serious number of lives across the world every year.

According to the WHO, an estimated 10.6 million people, including 1.2 million children, fell ill with the disease globally and 1.6 million died in 2021.

On March 24 each year, World Tuberculosis Day is observed globally to raise public awareness about the preventable and curable disease.

Tereza Kasaeva, WHO Global Tuberculosis Program director, said 2023 is a critical year to push forward the agenda toward ending the disease, as there are several high-level opportunities to raise visibility, increased political commitment and enhance investments for tuberculosis response.

"The theme of world TB day 2023 'Yes! We can end TB!', reflects this and aims to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic," Kasaeva said in a video message.

She said despite global efforts to fight tuberculosis, nearly 4,400 individuals lose their lives on a daily basis, and around 30,000 others become ill, "while global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 74 million lives since the year 2000."

People who suffer from undernutrition face a tripled risk compared to others. About 2.2 million cases in 2021 are estimated to be caused due to undernutrition.

More than 80% of deaths from the disease occur in low and middle-income countries.

Although it is seen in every region of the world, South Asia is at the forefront of the regions where tuberculosis was most common in 2021. According to the WHO report, 46% of cases in 2021 were seen in South Asia and 23% in Africa.

The WHO report pointed out that two-thirds of the worldwide tuberculosis cases in 2020 were seen in eight countries – India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After the WHO declared tuberculosis a "global emergency" in 1993, steps have been taken to combat the disease across the globe.

The United Nations has set one of its sustainable development goals to end the disease by 2030. Furthermore, the WHO has implemented the Tuberculosis Action Plan for the WHO European Region 2023-2030 as part of its end tuberculosis strategy.

The action plan aims to reduce incidence by 80% and deaths by 90% in the WHO European Region, including Türkiye.

Diagnosis and treatment services for tuberculosis are offered free of charge by all health institutions in Türkiye.

All drugs used in the treatment of tuberculosis patients are also supplied by the Health Ministry.

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