With more than 1.5 million deaths in 2018, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease. An estimated 10 million people fall ill with TB per year, and every third person goes untreated. A mere eight countries represent more than two-thirds of all new cases: India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
In a recent case at the Al Rahma TB Hospital, located on the outskirts of Muscat, Oman, Eskild Petersen saw a patient who had arrived from India to work in an Omani family household. She suffered cold-like symptoms for a month before being diagnosed with active TB. "The woman had, of course, been screened for TB when she entered the country but did not show active signs of the disease,” the Danish TB expert says and adds, “Given that she was in direct contact with the Omani family for weeks before her diagnosis, it’s possible that further infections will occur.”
The Al Rahma TB Hospital shimmers in the midday heat. The parking lot and the small hospital are a few meters apart, but the city’s intense 40°C heat and sweltering humidity make even such a short distance a brutal walk for Dr. Petersen. The professor of tropical medicine at Aarhus University is internationally renowned for his extensive contributions to global health, therapeutic drug monitoring, travel medicine and emerging infections. On the verge of his retirement, he was hired by the health ministry of Oman as a senior medical consultant to support local doctors in their fight against tuberculosis. “A challenge I couldn´t resist,” Petersen admits with a smile.
A tall man in his sixties, Petersen is known for his pleasant demeanor and easygoing humor. He is currently one of the 1.8 million migrant workers living in Oman.