‘The Biggest Monster’ Is Spreading. And It’s Not the Coronav
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‘The Biggest Monster’ - Begins with mild fever and malaise, followed by a painful cough and shortness of breath. Spreading to people in close reach. Containing an outbreak requires contact tracing, as well as isolation and treatment of the sick for weeks or months.

It is tuberculosis, the biggest infectious-disease killer worldwide, claiming 1.5 million lives each year.

Yet now, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, consuming global health resources, these perennially neglected adversaries; TB, HIV and malaria; are making a comeback. Lockdowns have raised insurmountable barriers to patients who must travel to obtain diagnoses or drugs.

In India, home to about 27% of the world’s TB cases, diagnoses have dropped by nearly 75% since the pandemic began. According to one estimate, a three-month lockdown could result in an additional 6.3 million cases of tuberculosis and 1.4 million deaths from it.

A six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy may lead to more than 500,000 additional deaths from illnesses related to HIV, according to the WHO. Another model by the WHO predicted that in the worst-case scenario, deaths from malaria could double to 770,000 per year.

In the long term, there’s an even more worrisome consequence: a rise in drug-resistant forms of these diseases. Already drug-resistant TB is such a threat that patients are closely monitored during treatment.

Not to forget, the hypes over chloroquine as a potential treatment for the coronavirus has led to hoarding of the drug in some countries, depleting its global stocks.

In June, the WHO changed its recommendation for the treatment of drug-resistant TB. Instead of 20 months of injections, patients may now take pills for nine to 11 months. The change means patients don’t have to travel to clinics, increasingly closed by lockdowns.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/03/health/coronavirus-tuberculosis-aids-malaria.html
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