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COVID-19 disruptions may raise cancer, HIV, TB cases, deaths globally

By Chukwuma Muanya
26 June 2020   |   3:40 am
Researchers have predicted a sharp rise in cases and deaths associated with cancer, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and tuberculosis (TB) as a result of disruptions...

Researchers have predicted a sharp rise in cases and deaths associated with cancer, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and tuberculosis (TB) as a result of disruptions to health services by the COVID-19 pandemic globally.

Also, mounting evidence from tissue studies and coronavirus patients suggest that the disease might trigger diabetes by damaging insulin-producing cells, even as the investigators established that persistent cough and fever were most prevalent symptoms associated with the novel virus.

According to new information published yesterday in the European Respiratory Journal, prior to the emergence of the dreaded COVID-19, over 4,000 people were dying daily from TB.

Pollsters from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Lancaster University forecast more TB deaths and cases in China, India and South Africa over the next five years.

The examiners hypothesised that social distancing might reduce TB incidence as Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the causative bacterium is transmitted via droplets in the air – in a similar fashion with coronavirus.

But taking into account this potentially reduced TB transmission, the most likely scenario was estimated to result in more than 110,000 fresh deaths.

In the worst-case scenario, the figure could rise to up to 200,000 bereavements.

The first author and Assistant Professor in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at LSHTM, Dr. Finn McQuaid, noted: “There is concern that the COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in decreased TB clinic attendance, delayed diagnosis and treatment. This is especially so in low and middle-income countries where health services, or access to them, might be substantially disrupted. Early anecdotal information from China, India and South Africa suggest that the number of people being diagnosed and treated for TB has fallen significantly.”

Also, a new analysis by the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) has revealed the potential impact the virus could have on low and middle-income nations worldwide, particularly supplies of generic antiretroviral medicines to treat HIV.

The survey pointed out that the lockdowns imposed to check the spread of COVID-19 were adversely affecting the production and distribution of medicines, potentially leading to high prices and cost.

The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, said: “It is vital that countries urgently make plans now to mitigate the impact of higher cost and reduced availability of antiretroviral medicines.”

According to the global agency, since 24.5 million people were on antiretroviral therapy at the end of June 2019, millions of people could be endangered –owing to an increased risk of HIV transmission – if they can no longer access treatment.

Moreover, the Executive Secretary, Mass Medical Mission (MMM), Dr. Abia Nzelu, has lamented the rising cancer-related mortalities, saying the coronavirus pandemic had posed a great risk to patients nationwide.

She spoke in a statement to mark the 2020 International Cancer Survivors Day (ICSD).

Meanwhile, the Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria (AHAPN) has demanded personal protective equipment (PPE), payment of hazard allowance and other withheld benefits for its members.

The body also decried the alleged refusal by the government to register it as an independent trade union as well as the non-inclusion of pharmacists in recent negotiations between the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and health workers.

The position was communicated yesterday at a press briefing by the association’s national chairman and secretary, Drs. Kingsley Chiedu Amibor and Hafiz Ola Akande.