The National Tuberculosis, Buruli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme, has said that 73 per cent of Nigerians were ignorant of the high burden of tuberculosis in the country.
The NTBLCP noted with concern that only 27 per cent were enlightened about the infectious disease in a country of more than 206 million people.
The National Coordinator of the programme, Dr Chukwuemeka Anyike, stated this on Thursday in Abuja, at a two-day media engagement and sensitisation meeting, organised by the NTBLCP.
The News Agency of Nigeria, reports that the World Health Organisation had ranked Nigeria 7th, out of 30 countries globally, with the highest burden of TB, and 1st in Africa.
WHO reported that in 2019 alone, an estimated 440,000 new cases of TB were recorded, out of which 46,000 of the patients were also HIV-positive.
It said about 150,000 Nigerians died from TB, accounting for more than 10 per cent of all deaths in the country, adding that every hour, nearly 30 people were dying from the disease, despite the availability of effective treatment.
Anyike stated that TB was deadly and often require urgent treatment that is available in hospitals around the country, but lamented that most Nigerians are ignorant of the health condition and its treatment.
“In fact, the majority of people infected with TB will never get sick, they will not experience symptoms or become infectious.
“That is what is known as latent TB, in which the bacteria that cause TB simply stays dormant in the body,” he explained.
He, therefore, stressed that active TB case-finding was vital to reducing the burden of the disease in the country.
Nigeria, he said, had more than 440,000 TB cases, yet an estimated 300,000 new cases of the condition are missed annually.
“If you notice any changes in your respiratory tract, both upper and lower, ensure you meet your doctor for proper diagnosis.
“Shortness of breath, hemoptysis, anorexia, coloured sputum, chest pain, waste of muscle, unstoppable cough, and fatigue are signs/symptoms of tuberculosis,” Anyike explained.
According to him, most TB patients often fail to recognise TB symptoms because of the societal stigma attached to the disease.
“The way people treat those with TB, especially close contacts, is also a source of worry to the patients.
“This may lead to delay in reporting to the hospital, and consequently increase mortality from the disease.
“It may also make it difficult for the patients to comply with the long duration of TB treatment,” he said.
He stressed that TB remained an important cause of illness and death in Nigerian children.
“The emergence of HIV has further increased the burden of the disease. Childhood TB is under-diagnosed and under-reported in Nigeria.
“The diagnosis of TB can be made in most children based on a careful clinical evaluation.
“History of contact with a person with pulmonary TB is a very important component in the diagnosis of TB in children,” he explained.
Also speaking at the event, Dr. Bolatito Aiyenigba, Deputy Director, Malaria and Tuberculosis, Breakthrough ACTION, Nigeria, an NGO, said her organisation would continue to partner with the Nigerian government to accomplish the goal of the NTBLCP.
Aiyenigba said the partnership would ensure access to comprehensive and high-quality patient-centered and community-owned TB services for all Nigerians.
According to her, it is important to find the missing TB cases as the current case finding is only around 26 per cent.
“The implication of this is that 74 per cent of cases are not detected or reported, and these people may be transmitting TB to others in the communities,” she said.
She noted that the gap should not be that wide, adding that the campaign aimed to encourage people vulnerable to TB to approach health facilities to get tested.
“We are hoping that the campaign will be nationwide for maximum reach and impact,” she added.
On her part, the Head, Advocacy, Communication, and Social Mobilisation, NTBLCP, Mrs. Itoghowo Uko, expressed delight over the media engagement and sensitisation meeting.
“Knowledge they say is power, when you give an individual the right information, he or she would be able to decide on his or her life from an informed position.
“We have been able to sensitise Nigerians on the simple signs of Tuberculosis and the reason they need to go for a test.
“But, with what we have done today, and the responses we have gotten, we believe that the media will do the right thing through their reportage to tell Nigerians the danger of TB,” Uko said.
She added that the more aware Nigerians were about TB, the sooner the burden would reduce.