WHO says 7,000 avoidable deaths in Europe due to COVID-19 pandemic

Covid-19. Photo Courtesy: Unsplash

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IBNS-CMEDIA: There were nearly 7,000 excess deaths from tuberculosis (TB) in the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) European region during the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, new data published on Thursday has revealed.

Based on pre-2020 estimates, the deaths would not have occurred if TB diagnosis and treatment efforts had not been disrupted, WHO said.

The revelation comes via the latest TB surveillance and monitoring report from WHO/Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), released annually in anticipation of World TB Day, which takes place on 24 March.

“Our latest report reveals a heartbreaking, entirely preventable situation; people affected by TB were not protected during the pandemic and 7,000 needlessly lost their lives because of disruptions to TB services,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“The report also reveals another evolving, preventable tragedy: the prevalence of drug-resistant TB continues to rise,” he said. “We urge national authorities to strengthen TB testing programmes, diagnose promptly and apply the latest WHO guidelines.”

According to ECDC Director Dr Andrea Ammon, “we still have a long road ahead of us for meeting the TB elimination targets” in the aftermath of COVID-19.

“Timely strengthening of prevention, testing and treatment are key elements in fighting TB, and any delays are translated into further suffering and death. Countries must act now,” she said.