With Coronavirus pandemic threatening regional plans to eliminate and control infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis and others, the Pan American Health Organisation has called on countries to balance COVID-19 response with maintaining essential services to manage and prevent infectious diseases.
“With more than 10.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the Americas and 100,000 new cases being reported every day, “countries can’t delay the fight against COVID-19, but we must not let COVID-19 delay us in completing our unfinished agenda of eliminating and controlling infectious diseases from our region, “ PAHO Director Carissa F Etienne said.
She noted that several challenges in delivering TB treatments during the Cobvid-19 pandemic were reported by 80 percent of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. It only will lead the manageable TB cases turn into active infections. Moreover, she said that 30 percent of people living with HIV are avoiding seeking care. Moreover, antiretroviral medications are in limited supply, she said. There were also disruptions in hepatitis screenings, she added.
Carissa F Etienne said that the progress to achieved in the last many decades was now under threat because of the burden of COVID-19 on health systems, and the disruption of essential services, including priority disease control programs, elimination initiatives and routine immunization.
She also pointed out that Coronavirus interrupted mass drug administration campaigns. “Dengue and malaria remain a huge burden on health services and, like COVID-19, have a disproportionate impact on poor and vulnerable populations, including indigenous communities,” she said.
“In the first two months of 2020 the Americas reported a 139% increase in dengue cases when compared to the same period in 2019. However, since COVID-19 hit our region in March, reported cases of dengue fever have actually fallen,” she said.
Though diseases such as malaria, is down more than 40 per cent, she said that these figures cannot be believed as only less testing was done.
“While it is true that because many of us are stuck at home we’re less prone to getting bitten by mosquitoes, the reality is that mosquitoes and the pathogens they transmit are still circulating. And without testing or treatment, severe cases of mosquito-borne diseases could go from easily treatable conditions to death,” Etienne said.
The PAHO said that health systems must make it easier for patients to receive care, by “leveraging telemedicine and offering care outside of hospital settings, such as via community outreach programs and at-home visits. Apart from this, they also called for protecting health workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic.