Globally, tuberculosis (TB) testing and treatment have declined dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study conducted at the national referral hospital’s TB Clinic in Lusaka, Zambia, in the first year of the pandemic showed that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted TB care in Zambia, which could have had long-lasting impacts on TB transmission and mortality.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, significant decreases in the number of TB clinic visits, TB tests performed, and the number of prescriptions dispensed for TB treatment compared with the year prior. These decreases were most dramatic in the first 2 months of the pandemic, with decreases in clinic visits, prescriptions, and TB tests performed.
The study provided the first quantitative evaluation of TB service disruption in the largest TB clinic in urban Zambia. The results clearly demonstrated the immediate shock experienced by TB services at a large urban TB clinic at a tertiary hospital in Lusaka, the relative resiliency of the clinic, and yet the long road ahead to full recovery.
Future pandemic preparedness planning should incorporate strategies to immediately transition to decentralized or physically distanced service provision to mitigate the initial health system shock and minimize lasting impacts of testing and treatment interruptions.