Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and now the chief White House medical adviser, hasn’t been seen much recently as the COVID-19 pandemic has been on the decline.
The infectious disease expert just popped back up again recently to issue a new dire warning, not about the coronavirus this time, but about the potential for a “devastating” outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Ukraine, Newsbreak reported.
That warning from Fauci came concerning the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the doctor worried would substantially disrupt the already overtaxed Ukrainian health care system with respect to tuberculosis, which was already a big problem in that nation.
War could result in a new outbreak of disease
Dr. Fauci’s warnings about tuberculosis in Ukraine came in an exclusive interview with the U.K.’s The Telegraph, which reported that the eastern European nation suffers around 30,000 new tuberculosis cases annually and has one of the highest rates in the world of the particularly difficult to treat a drug-resistant variety of the disease.
“[The war] could be devastating, quite frankly,” Fauci said. “As a public health official, as a scientist, and as an infectious disease expert, I’m very worried about the disruption that has already happened and that will continue.”
He pointed to what he called “indiscriminate attacks” by Russia on Ukraine’s infrastructure systems as a big driver of his concerns about an explosive outbreak of tuberculosis in the besieged country.
“Hospitals being moved to cellars, clinics having to close, are going to have a terrible impact on TB and any other diseases — HIV, infectious disease of children,” Fauci complained. “[The war] is going to interrupt the vaccine programs of kids, this is going to be a really terrible public health tragedy — in addition to a terrible tragedy of life lost in war.”
Fauci has previously warned about tuberculosis
Though there is now a new urgency to the situation, this is not the first time that Dr. Fauci has voiced his concerns specifically about tuberculosis in Ukraine, as he raised that very issue in a 2016 interview with The Atlantic.
“In fact, tuberculosis is now the leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide,” Fauci said at that time. “It is understandable — though not excusable — that people in the United States think this is not really a problem. Most of the time people don’t think beyond our borders.”
“Decades ago, before there was a lot of multiple- and extensive-drug-resistant tuberculosis, we would be able to treat it no problem,” he added. “But what we have now is the danger that if one does get infected it is a very, very difficult disease to treat.”
“Global community” must act quickly
In his recent interview with The Telegraph, Fauci said of the current situation, “I know that there are a lot of groups that are now amassing on the border of Poland to help, people going right into Ukraine, as dangerous as it is, to try to provide some modicum of health care during this very difficult time.”
“We, the global community, [must] do whatever we can to mitigate against what is going to be an absolutely profound disruption of healthcare,” he added.