World TB Day Reminds Us of Another Pandemic to Learn From

On March 24th, it was World TB Day. Every year, approximately 10 million people are infected and more than 1.2 million die. TB wreaks havoc on vulnerable populations. Unlike COVID-19, TB is preventable and curable. In 1993, the World Health Organization declared TB a global health emergency. While it has been over 25 years, TB still causes the most infectious related deaths in the world.

A relative adjusts the oxygen mask of a tuberculosis patient at a TB hospital on World Tuberculosis Day in Hyderabad, India, Saturday, March 24, 2018. Earlier this month Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a campaign to fast-track the India’s response to tuberculosis, which is now the world’s leading infectious killer. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Unlike COVID-19, TB can be vaccinated against and there are rapid tests that just take a couple minutes. However, the coronavirus pandemic is causing a strain on the healthcare system impacting TB tests and treatments. It is also affecting the supply chain for TB and other infectious diseases, including medicine and protective equipment, such as masks. There is great concern that COVID-19 will hit sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, places that do not have the healthcare infrastructure needed to treat this disease.

COVID-19 does not seem to affect children as much as adults. With TB, children die from it every day. Experts say that learning from children is important in understanding disease control. Another important lesson is the need to pay attention to poor and vulnerable populations in any global public health intervention.

Read more at VOA,