Tuberculosis death rate in India has increased because of the COVID pandemic

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By Louise Miner  with AFP
Tuberculosis death rate in India has increased because of the COVID pandemic
Copyright  AFPTV

Around half a million people died from Tuberculosis in India in 2020. That's a third of the global toll. It's the first time the death rates from TB rose in more than a decade.

The rising death rate follows the two-year COVID-19 pandemic, and medical experts say people in India were too worried about getting tested during that time. 

Doctor Pranita Tipre is Mumbai's tuberculosis officer-in-charge and says TB and COVID symptoms are very similar.

"The symptoms for Covid as well as the symptoms for TB (tuberculosis) are the same. So we started realising that people are not coming forward for TB testing only because of the scare of doctors asking them to get COVID testing and then if they turn out to be positive, they are (sent) into quarantine. So that was the real issue because of which they never come forward."

Now there are calls for more funding for vaccines and assistance to tackle malnutrition - a major factor in getting the curable disease.

And there's support out there. Seema Kunchikorve is a tuberculosis survivor and a member of a health programme supporting TB patients. She said there are various challenges.

"There are a lot of difficulties one goes through during this situation. Since I have gone through it, I want to encourage others and give them support. I want to tell them 'If I can recover, then why can't you?'" she states.

The Indian government has a goal to end the spread of TB by 2025. However, the COVID pandemic has reversed years of progress towards reaching that target.