Apart from COVID-19, Other Respiratory Infections Remain a Threat

The world has been focused on controlling COVID-19 for the past three years. This is understandable as ending the pandemic as soon as possible will save lives and help start the recovery of the global economy. However, as respiratory specialist Dr. Brian Kent writes, “in the shadows, old foes lurk, and other respiratory infections remain important causes of [sickness and death].”

Tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) global TB report in 2020, the Philippines has the highest tuberculosis (TB) incidence rate in Asia, with 554 cases for every 100,000 Filipinos. Over 100,000 Filipinos may die of tuberculosis (TB) in the next five years or 20,000 TB deaths per year if TB services continue to be disrupted because of mobility restrictions brought about by COVID-19, warned the Department of Health (DOH) last year. The DOH cited a modelling study by the Imperial College of London which projected that between 65,100 to 146,300 TB deaths may happen if local TB services remain limited in another year.

Influenza and Pneumonia. “Whilst influenza has been largely held in abeyance by the public health measures deployed to tackle COVID-19, we can be confident of its re-emergence as these measures are unwound,” warns Dr. Kent. According to the latest WHO data published in 2020, influenza and pneumonia deaths in Philippines reached 93,807 or 13.91% of total deaths.

Respiratory Syncytial (RSV). Dr. Kent also sounded the alarm about respiratory syncytial (RSV), a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD). Dr. Kent pointed out that almost half of patients with interstitial lung disease (ILD) who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 eventually died. Moreover, a significant minority of patients admitted with COVID-19 pneumonia go on to develop ILD, negatively affecting lung function and quality of life. ILD is a group of several disorders that can cause scarring in the lungs. The scar tissue affects the lungs’ ability to carry oxygen and can make it harder to breathe normally.

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