Tuberculosis is one of the diseases that Nigerians are oblivious about. This infection ranks one of the top most infectious diseases in the world that is deadly. Recent statistics have shown that it may be close to our doorstep.
WHO, World Health Organisation 2017 Global report, two out of every 1, 000 Nigerians will have TB.
Nigeria ranks 6th among 14 countries with a high burden of TB, Multidrug-Resistant TB, MDR-TB, and TB/HIV. The country is also number 1 country in Africa with the highest burden of TB.
According to statistics presented by the National Tuberculosis, Burulli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme, NTBLCP, it is indicated that not less than 104, 940 TB patients, representing about 20 percent of known patients, were notified to the authorities in 2017. This means that there is a huge number of TB patients in the communities that are not notified.
Tragically, studies indicates that low detection and stigmatization of the disease, and those who have it, is frustrating the eradication of TB in the country.
The press reports that even though the best way to stop the spread of TB is to provide for the infected person to sleep in a separate room, stigma, low case detection, ignorance and funding gap weaken response efforts. Experts fear that one case of untreated TB can infect 10 to 15 persons per year.
This infectious disease is treated free of charge in all government owned health institution, from detection to last treatment regimen is duly paid for. But the question posed in mind is why there are still recorded deaths of TB.
According to WHO, TB is the world deadliest infectious diseases and 1.3 billion people are at risk of developing TB. The world health body, in their 2017 report, also noted that countries are not doing enough to end TB by 2030 in spite of global efforts that averted about 54 million TB deaths since 2000.
It upheld that the disease is still one of the top 10 causes of worldwide deaths, and is the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent after HIV/AIDS.
Following this report, it is believed that 47 Nigerians develop active TB
Dr Linda Ozor, WHO Acting Coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases Cluster, validating the report, said 18 Nigerians die of TB every hour.
“The disease in Nigeria is further fuelled by the large number of undetected TB cases which serve as a pool of reservoir for the continuous transmission of the disease. Each undetected TB case has the potential of infecting 10-15 persons in a year”,
Ozor lamented that, in spite of the scary burden of this deadly diseases, and the fact that Nigeria increased its TB detection rate from 17% to 24% and declared 2017 year for faster TB case finding, challenges abound.
The WHO official said, “Among the challenges is how to find the remaining 300,000 cases which are still missed by the health sector. Of the total 400,000 cases, only 100,000 were reported”.
The Deputy Director, National Tuberculosis, Burulli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme, NTBLCP, Itohowo Uko, said stigmatization and low case detection have continued to impede on the success of TB response in Nigeria. these challenges have increased transmission and high TB prevalence rates in the country.
Recounting the burden of TB in Nigeria as scary, she recognised low TB treatment coverage, low awareness and services on TB among the general population and dwindling donor funding and inadequate government funding at all levels as major challenges facing the fight against TB in Nigeria.
“Nigeria is classified among the 14 countries with high burden of TB, MDR-TB & TB/HIV and this should be a concern to all Nigerians”, the official said.
“Our vision in NTBLCP is to ensure a Nigeria free of TB. Our mission is also to save Nigerian lives, reach zero TB deaths, and reduce the burden and impact of TB, drug-resistant TB, and TB/HIV in Nigeria.
“Our goal is also to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the TB prevalence rate and 75 percent reduction in the TB mortality rate (excluding HIV) in Nigeria by 2025.”
She enlightened that TB is spread through the air when the person with TB of the lungs coughs, sneezes, sings or talks, adding that persistent cough of two weeks or more duration may be due to TB and needs to be further investigated.
Other signs of TB of the lungs are loss of weight when you are not trying to lose weight, drenching night sweats when others close by are not sweating and loss of appetite.
She revealed that TB is curable and that patient is not infectious after few weeks on treatment.
Uko urges Nigerians to avoid overcrowded and poorly ventilated environments, and observe cough hygiene by covering their mouths properly when coughing and sneezing and not spitting indiscriminately in the public.
she recommended prompt diagnosis of TB in patients, adding that treatment for six months will prevent spreading the germ to others as well as eating a balanced diet to avoid malnutrition.
Health watchers say with the high burden of TB, there is a need for all hands to be on deck to ensure that the funding gap is closed.