Story at a glance

  • Tuberculosis deaths have risen for the first time in more than a decade as resources have been diverted to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The organization's annual report revealed that 1.5 million people died from the disease in 2020, up from 1.4 million in 2019.
  • Around 85 percent of people with TB can be cured of the disease with a six-month drug treatment regimen.

Tuberculosis deaths have risen for the first time in more than a decade as resources have been diverted to combat the coronavirus pandemic, The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday

The organization's annual report revealed that 1.5 million people died from the disease in 2020, up from 1.4 million in 2019. WHO modeling suggests the numbers could be higher in the next two years. 

Around 85 percent of people with TB can be cured of the disease with a six-month drug treatment regimen, according to the WHO. 


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“This report confirms our fears that the disruption of essential health services due to the pandemic could start to unravel years of progress against tuberculosis,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is alarming news that must serve as a global wake-up call to the urgent need for investments and innovation to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for the millions of people affected by this ancient but preventable and treatable disease,” Tedros added. 

Yet the number of new diagnoses declined by more than a million from 2019 to 2020, and the WHO estimates that 4.1 million people suffering from TB are undiagnosed or have not reported. 

WHO notes that the second deadliest infection is most prevalent in 30 countries and most people who develop TB are adults. Men accounted for 56 percent of all cases in 2020, while women and children made up 33 percent and 11 percent. 


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Published on Oct 14, 2021