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Mar 21, 2022

Tuberculosis seems to be making its comeback in 2022. TB has been one of the leading causes of death in South Africa and until now has been on a steady decline. For the first time in over a decade, TB mortality has increased, but the main reason behind this increase now is related to COVID-19. This is not because they are both respiratory diseases but because COVID-19 disrupted health services that offer TB treatment.

The World Health Organization reported that a suspected 10 million people contracted TB and only 5.8 million of them were diagnosed and reported worldwide. The countries with the highest unreported and undiagnosed cases were countries hardest hit by COVID-19 and lockdown. As a result, these were some of the most disrupted health care services also coupled with 40% of TB patients missing their TB screenings. These alarming numbers imply an increase in transmissions as many people have gone untreated and undiagnosed.

There have also been rare COVID-19 cases reported with TB coinfections. This is especially bad for southern Africa as we already have a high TB and HIV coinfection burden. The Omicron variant might not have claimed as many lives as the Delta variant, but it does pose a new threat with its ability to coinfect patients.

Without an effective TB vaccine for adults, its transmission is surely expected to increase. Without it, patients diagnosed with TB should finish the course of their prescribed medications. To protect your family and those in close contact with you, the following should be adhered to:

  • Self-isolate
  • Sanitise and wash your hands
  • Place used tissues in a sealed bag
  • Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze or laugh
  • Ventilate the room you are using

For more about TB click here

Visit your GP

Should you experience any of the TB or COVID-19 symptoms you are advised to consult a GP (General Practitioner). Visit the Bestmed App and find a GP near you. 



National Library of Medicine. (2020, November 10). Tuberculosis and COVID-19 Co-infection: An Updated Review. Retrieved from National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33682808/
The New England Journal of medicine. (2022, January 05). Covid-19’s Devastating Effect on Tuberculosis Care — A Path to Recovery. Retrieved from New England Journal of medicine: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2118145
Zameer Brey, M. L. (2021, October 21). WHO numbers underscore urgent need for stronger leadership and ambitious TB recovery plan. Retrieved from Spotlight: https://www.spotlightnsp.co.za/2021/10/20/opinion-who-numbers-underscore-urgent-need-for-stronger-leadership-and-ambitious-tb-recovery-plan/

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