The latest pulse from the World Health Organization (WHO)
Survey, 1 conducted in nearly 135 countries, shows that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to severely disrupt the delivery of health services – with Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) services disrupted in 44% of countries.
“Community-based interventions, such as large-scale treatment programs, are affected in nearly 60% of countries. Other activities, including community awareness and health education campaigns, are affected in 52% of the countries, ”said Dr. Gautam Biswas, Head of Strategic Information and Analytics in WHO’s Department of Neglected Tropical Disease Control. Critical services that include support for self-care, rehabilitation and psychosocial services, as well as diagnosis, treatment and care, are also at risk
Due to the potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 associated with the delivery of large-scale treatment programs, other public health approaches to NTDs are also significantly impacted. These include vector control, veterinary public health, and water, sanitation, and health education activities (in addition to population mapping, monitoring, and evaluation studies).
Delays in diagnosis, treatment, and care, as well as manufacturing, shipping, shipping, and delivery of donated drugs are significant.
Measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
WHO has taken a series of measures to address the impact of COVID-19 on NTD services.
Between May and July 2020, three major guidelines for the COVID-19 context were released to help countries. WHO’s tailor-made technical advice to Member States and partners included advice to identify the re-use of NTD personnel and platforms to support community handwashing, tracing contacts, addressing misinformation and providing essential sanitation.
The production, shipping, delivery and distribution of NTD drugs and other consumables were closely monitored.
Consequences for NTDs
Despite these measures, COVID-19 can result in an increased NTD burden, in terms of both mortality and morbidity. This, in turn, could lead to delays in meeting public health goals – including the elimination as a public health concern and the eradication of Guinea worm disease and vultures by 2030.
In terms of clinical results, the impact of COVID-19 on NTDs is overwhelming, as the prognosis of COVID-19 may be more severe in people suffering from chronic NTD manifestations. Sample includes:
people with chronic Chagas disease develop cardiac complications, meaning that co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be life-threatening;
soil-borne helminthiasis can lead to anemia, leaving millions of affected individuals (especially children and pregnant women) vulnerable to severe COVID-19 results;
overlaps in clinical presentation between dengue and COVID-19 can mislead diagnosis and public health systems;
cases of false positive dengue serology due to COVID-19 can lead to confusion and overwhelming health systems, in places where COVID-19 and dengue are both endemic.
In response to COVID-19, many countries have to make important decisions, often involving staff redeployment and services suspended. Nevertheless, many NTD interventions are gradually resuming in a completely changed public health landscape.
1This survey was conducted to gauge the impact of the pandemic on essential health services and how countries are adapting their strategies to preserve essential services. It examined 63 health services and health areas in 216 countries and areas in the 6 WHO regions. A total of 135 responses were received between January and March 2021 (response rate 63%).