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Was the Pandemic a Cause for Today’s Rise in TB?

With rising incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in Europe for the first time in 20 years, as well as in parts of the U.S., COVID is getting at least part of the blame. The reduced surveillance of other infectious diseases, difficulties in accessing of health services, and focus of health resources toward COVID during the pandemic are being posited as resulting in delayed diagnoses which could have increased severity of the cases. Additionally, reduced contact tracing for diseases other than COVID could have led to increased transmission.

With public health officials warning that the increase and severity could continue for tuberculosis, TAG would expect that other infectious diseases could face similar prospects as well, making it essential that businesses continue to be alert to community levels of infectious disease and worker symptoms.

As discussed in TAG’s  Infectious Disease Fact Sheets, Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that spreads through the air from an infectious person to another when they cough, speak or sing, with close contacts of sick people and those with weakened immune systems most at risk. Although casual contact is not believed to be a significant risk factor, anyone exposed to TB should be tested to determine if medical care is needed. This is particularly of concern because there are increasing reports of multi-drug resistant strains of TB circulating.

COVID Risk Matrix:


  • COVID. India recorded 5,357 cases in 24 hours.
  • Influenza
    • Flu continues to rise in parts of China. This week’s reports describe that rates are rising in Guangdong with most of the people infected with influenza A in this round are children. Pharmacies are seeing shortages of some medicines and treatments.
    • Taiwan is also seeing increases.
  • Tuberculosis
    • Disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic is being blamed for the first recorded rise in tuberculosis cases and deaths in Europe for two decades. It is hypothesized that diversion of resources towards battling coronavirus in 2020, and difficulties patients experienced in accessing services, may have resulted in delayed diagnoses and reduced contact tracing, which could have enabled cases to become more severe and transmission to increase, the report states. Public health officials are warning that there may be an increase in the number and clinical severity of cases in the coming years.
  • Avian Flu. The WHO Pan American Health Organization confirms that to date, no human-to-human transmission of avian influenza has been detected.
  • Marburg. There have been 14 cases of Marburg virus disease in Equatorial Guinea and 8 cases in Tanzania. 15 deaths have occurred.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections. CDC released new data that STIs continued to climb in 2021. Data shows that gonorrhea and chlamydia cases each rose by 4% compared to 2020, while syphilis cases rose by 32%.

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