Though COVID-19 is drawing the world's attention, other highly infectious diseases should also be brought to the forefront. For example, tuberculosis (TB). Similar to COVID-19, TB is a highly contagious disease.
Its existence is in every part of the world and there is no country where TB has been eliminated. In 2018, 1.5 million people died from TB and 10 million people were affected. It is one of the top 10 causes of death and the world's top infectious disease killer.
Now, obviously, the world is fully concentrated on COVID-19. As a result, people will easily forget that there is also something called tuberculosis, which is more silent, more calm, but is posing a tremendous burden to humanity.
Each day, TB kills nearly 4,100 people.
Tuberculosis is like COVID-19 – it's a respiratory disease that is mainly transmitted through the respiratory route.
So TB's personal prevention measures are similar. For example, respiratory hygiene.
If a person is sneezing or coughing, he or she should cover the mouth and nose not to spread the virus to others. And this person should be consult a doctor to be evaluated for TB or other infections, and be isolated if necessary.
Tuberculosis produces severe lung disease and could be fatal without treatment.
If you let tuberculosis go by itself without treatment, you will have 65 percent to 70 percent of dying in five years' time.
It's a slow disease and a slow epidemic, which is different from COVID-19.
COVID-19 is an acute disease while TB is more of a chronic disease that tends to go on sometimes for months without being detected, but at the same time being transmissible to other.
That's why we have in the world a quarter of the human population that would test positive for a previous exposure to TB in their lives, which means they have been infected with tuberculosis.
They don't know unless they have some special tests. And this dormant infection with no symptoms may come back with full-blown tuberculosis at a certain time when risk factors arise, such as HIV, diabetes, malnutrition, alcohol abuse and smoking.
There is not enough investment for TB. And not having enough investment by countries in facing the epidemic means that you let the disease go wild and continuously affect people.
Tuberculosis is not only preventable but is curable if you take the adequate measures. So if a case of TB could be diagnosed and treated promptly, it would be cured at a rate of about 95 percent.
We still have 10 million cases every year of tuberculosis, which is a quite a big number for a disease that is preventable and curable.
The hope is that with COVID-19 calling the attention worldwide to infectious diseases and to respiratory diseases – where you need respiratory hygiene and all others measures to control transmission – people and politicians will remember that TB also needs to be tackled with the same intensity.
People also must remember that tuberculosis is in a way transmitted in the same manner, and that would help in the future of the campaigns of awareness.
When COVID-19 still raging worldwide, tuberculosis continues killing 4,100 people every day.
China's efforts have been quite remarkable also in the fight against tuberculosis. With prevalent surveys made in 1990, then again in 2000 and in 2010, TB has seen a steady decline in prevalence, incidence and mortality.
So we have seen a progressive decline, which is estimated to be in the range of three to four percent per year.
Nevertheless, in China, there are still nearly 900,000 cases, so efforts still are needed and much more than it is now if China wants to eliminate TB. With economic development, chances of elimination will increase. It is the right time to invest.