Global health experts have warned that the highly contagious respiratory disease tuberculosis will kill millions — and cost the global economy $1 trillion — by 2030 if countries don’t act to eradicate it.
The Price of a Pandemic report, compiled by the 130-state Global Tuberculosis Caucus, coincides with a landmark gathering of global public health experts, world leaders and funders this week for the first World Health Organization (WHO) Global Ministerial Conference on tuberculosis in Moscow, Russia.
Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is an airborne illness that typically affects the respiratory system and kills 5,000 people every day, according to WHO. It causes a prolonged, at times bloody, cough in addition to chest pain and weakness.
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“There are a lot of intractable problems in the world but TB should not be one of them — we can treat and cure it,” Global Tuberculosis Caucus co-chair Nick Herbert said in a statement. “Governments around the world want to boost economic growth, and investments in TB care and prevention will not only dramatically improve the health of their populations, but also yield a major economic dividend.”
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In 2016, TB killed more than 1.7 million people. In 2014, more than a quarter of those individuals who died from TB also had HIV/AIDS, which compromises people’s immune systems and makes them more susceptible to TB and other infectious diseases.
According to the report, more than 171 million people contracted TB and 33 million people died from the illness between 2000 and 2015. Over half of these deaths occurred in G20 countries, including nearly 10 million in India, more than 1.5 million in South Africa and more than 1.1 million in China.
TB exacts a devastating human toll and poses a significant burden to the global economy.
The report urges countries to increase funding for TB treatment and prevention, part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“It is primarily a matter of political will, because the overall sum of money that has to be found between the world’s nations is perfectly within reach if we all act together,” Herbert said.