Jeddah skyline Saudi Arabia
Residential and commercial properties sit on the city skyline beside a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Jeddah's authorities have closed a shopping centre and a major restaurant for failing to abide by the rules to fight coronavirus. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi: Some 1,897 people were infected with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) in Saudi Arabia in 2020, with a rate of infection of 5.42 per 100,000, while Jeddah topped the list of cities with 490 cases, a report of the Ministry of Health revealed.

TB is caused by bacteria and it most often affects the lungs. It is spread through the air when infected patients cough, sneeze or spit. A person needs to inhale only a few germs to become infected.

Dr. Tariq Al Azraqi, infectious diseases consultant, attributed the increase in cases in Jeddah to pilgrims coming to Mecca from East Asian countries such as Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and their mixing with the population. Most visitors are diagnosed at Jeddah hospitals.

Riyadh came in second place with 409 cases, followed by Al Sharqiya 223, Mecca 182, Jazan 178, Medina 97, Asir 62. The youth category of between 25 and 35 years recorded the highest infection rate with 565 cases, those over 65 years recorded 155, those between 55 and 65 years (175), 258 cases were recorded among people between 45 and 55 years, 397 cases among people aged 35 to 45 years, and 16 cases among children below 5 years.

Every year, 10 million people fall ill with TB. Despite being a preventable and curable disease, 1.5 million people die from TB each year – making it the world’s top infectious disease killer, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Most of people who fall ill with TB live in low- and middle-income countries, but TB is present all over the world. About half of all people with TB can be found in eight countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and South Africa.

About one-quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be infected by TB bacteria. Only 5-15 per cent of these people will fall ill with active TB disease. The rest have TB infection but are not ill and cannot transmit the disease. Both TB infection and disease are curable using antibiotics.