UN calls for urgent action on World Tuberculosis Day

World Today

UN calls for urgent action on World Tuberculosis Day

March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day. The U.N. is urging governments to end this global pandemic.

TB is preventable and curable yet, it remains one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.

CGTN’s Gerald Tan examines some of the stark statistics.

When it comes to infectious diseases, the World Health Organization says tuberculosis is the deadliest killer. Every day, 4,500 people lose their lives to TB. That’s a global toll of around 135,000 each month.

Latest figures from the WHO show TB killed 1.6 million people in 2017. And what’s increasing alarm is more than a third of TB’s recent victims were infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain.

Peter Sands, Executive Director for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria says, “Frankly, we should all be more worried about multidrug-resistant TB than we are. It gets nothing like the level of attention it should do. Just to sort of put it in context, Ebola has a fatality rate of about 50 percent. MDR-TB has a fatality rate of about 50 percent.”

In 2017, there were an estimated 10 million new cases of TB worldwide. Two-thirds were concentrated in just eight countries — all in Asia and Africa. The breakdown:

UN calls for urgent action on World Tuberculosis Day

But here’s another sobering thought: because TB often affects the poorest members of society, researchers believe a third of cases go undiagnosed or untreated.

As Sands explains, “The ambition of the Global Fund is to end the epidemics of AIDS, TB and Malaria by 2030. However, the blunt truth is that we are not on track for that ambition. If you compare the trajectory in terms of new infections and deaths against what we need to do, we need to step up the fight.”

And to step up that fight, the U.N. says it needs an estimated ten-and-a-half billion dollars. That excludes funding for research and development — all necessary to develop new tools to end the scourge of tuberculosis.

Mike Reid on the worldwide fight against tuberculosis

CGTN’s Wang Guan spoke with Mike Reid for more on efforts worldwide to combat tuberculosis. Reid is an Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.