24 March 2020 – Media Release
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 24 March is World TB Day. Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s deadliest infectious disease taking more than 4,100 lives every day.
The COVID-19 pandemic worries many vulnerable populations with low immune systems. Demi Mason, a TB survivor from Perth, is equally worried about the situation. Demi cancelled her plans to travel to Sydney this week to attend her classes and a cancelled World TB Day event in Parliament House.
Demi was just 18 and about to start studying Journalism at Curtin University in Perth when she was diagnosed with TB. “I have no idea where I contracted TB. My doctor said it could have come from anyone. However, TB can lay dormant in your body for years, so it could have been from anywhere or anyone. I do know that the reason it did develop into active TB was that my immune system was so low as I was severely suffering from anorexia nervosa”, explains Demi.
“Because it took so long to diagnose me with TB, my right upper lobe part of my lung developed quite a lot of scar tissue. I was lucky enough not to have any other side effects. I had no issues, apart from light shortness of breath compared to before, but when I coughed up blood in the middle of the night from a burst in my damaged lung. This resulted in being diagnosed with Bronchiectasis, a chronic lung condition that makes me more prone to chest infections. If I can keep myself as healthy as possible, I can avoid having to get that lobe removed for a while.”
“In contrast to COVID-19, most Australians don’t even know about TB, although TB is one of the world’s oldest diseases,” says Demi. She wants more people to know about TB as this disease doesn’t discriminate.
Ms Amelia Christie, CEO of RESULTS Australia, explains, “it is certain that COVID-19 will impact the health system, global supply chains, and health service delivery, including tuberculosis services. What worries me is how countries without strong health systems with high TB cases, such as Papua
New Guinea, are going to cope with it.”
The state of the global TB epidemic today is a harsh reminder of what happens when we fail to invest in medical research and innovations for new tools (e.g. diagnostics, drugs, vaccine) and fail to invest in the health system to deliver them. Despite TB being declared a global health emergency in 1993 by WHO, the world is still way behind in reaching the target of investing US$13 billion needed to fight TB.
The Hon. Warren Entsch, the Federal Member for Leichhardt and Co-Chair of the Australian TB Caucus wants people to be aware that TB is a real issue for many Australians and one that requires our vigilance.
“When something like Covid-19 happens, it attracts world attention, which is entirely appropriate. However let us not forget that TB infects and kills far more people on an annual basis than any other infectious disease. There is still a huge amount to be done to both in treatment and more importantly vaccines before we can say that we have comfortably conquered this preventable disease.
“I hear stories like Demi’s, and it’s very clear that disease does not discriminate. We’re all vulnerable, and we all need to work together eradicate diseases like TB and COVID-19 so that lives are not put on hold indefinitely or worse taken completely,” says Mr Entsch.
As World TB Day approaches, The Australia TB Caucus is urging the government to increase its commitment to research and development around all deadly infectious disease.
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The Secretariat of the Australian TB Caucus is hosted by RESULTS International (Australia).
For further information on World TB Day or to arrange an interview, please contact: