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Study says the covid-19 pandemic is also going to increase HIV, TB, and malaria cases

Updated on:14 July 2020, 11:20am IST
Covid-19 hits the immune system real hard, leaving them vulnerable to other viral ailments that can be fatal.
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It’s not just covid-19 we need to be wary of. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

It seems like covid-19 is calling out to all the other viruses in our universe as well. You see, when someone gets infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus then the immunity of that person suffers a major setback, making that person vulnerable to viral diseases like TB, malaria, or HIV. 

In fact, a new study published in the Lancet Global Health journal says that a surge in the cases of other viral infections is highly likely during this pandemic. 

Over the next five years death by viral infections will increase, says the study
It’s a sad reality but the fact is that deaths from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria could surge in poor and middle-income countries as already weak health systems grapple with severe disruptions from the covid-19 pandemic, according to this predictive study.

Over the next five years, deaths from the three diseases could rise by as much as 10%, 20%, and 36% respectively–putting the mortality impact on a scale similar to the direct impact of the coronavirus pandemic itself, the modeling study found.

This news makes taking preventive measure all the more important. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“In countries with a high malaria burden and large HIV and TB epidemics, even short-term disruptions could have devastating consequences for the millions of people who depend on programmes to control and treat these diseases,” said Timothy Hallett, a professor at Imperial College London who co-led the work.

According to the researchers countries should start working on their healthcare systems
Hallet also said the knock-on impact of coronavirus could undo some of the significant progress against these diseases made over the past two decades, “compounding the burden caused by the pandemic directly”. But the risks could be mitigated, Hallett said, if countries strive to maintain core health services and deploy preventative measures against infections.

This study has used disease-modelling projections to map out possible covid-19 pandemic scenarios. And the findings are just mind-boggling. It is found that the greatest impact on HIV would be from interruption to supplies of the antiretroviral AIDS drugs taken by many patients to keep the disease in check.

Countries are running out of antiretrovirals and it is a major concern for WHO
The United Nations AIDS agency and the World Health Organization warned last week of stock shortages, with more than a third of the world’s countries already saying they are at risk of running out of antiretrovirals.

coronavirus
WHO thinks that this situation is grim. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

With malaria, the study found the largest impact would be due to disrupted distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, which protect millions of people from becoming infected by malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

So, the bottom line is that while we are going full throttle to beat the covid-19 menace, we shouldn’t sideline measures against other deadly diseases lest we want to find ourselves in the middle of another pandemic. 

(With inputs from Reuters)

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