Meera Yadav gave birth to her first baby in 2013 in Mumbai, India, but four months later, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which spreads when someone coughs, pushing bacteria into the air. Nearly two billion people are infected today, and roughly 10 million fall ill annually. Without treatment, most cases lead to fatal respiratory failure, killing about 1.5 million people every year. The disease is mostly found in low- and middle-income countries where malnutrition, lack of healthcare and crowded housing allow the disease to thrive and spread. In recent years, global TB cases declined about 2% annually, too slow to hit the United Nations goal of ending the pandemic by 2030. The COVID pandemic exacerbated TB, overwhelming national health systems, making it impossible for many patients to receive treatment and pushing more people into poverty. TB has surged in South America, and prisoners are another neglected group in the TB pandemic. Conditions such as overcrowding, poor ventilation and poor nutrition make them susceptible to the disease. A comprehensive approach to TB requires investment in screening, preventive therapy and better drugs but most of all in fighting poverty. Universal healthcare and increased income correlate directly with a drop in TB rates.
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