From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Director of Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilisation in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs Itohowo Uko, has lamented the low level of awareness of Tuberculosis (TB) across Nigeria.
Mrs Uko, who is the Head of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), stated that TB is silently killing more people than COVID-19 pandemic, insisting that the disease is highly contagious.
One case of TB can infect up to 10 to 15 people in a year, she said.
The Director spoke via Zoom at a one-day workshop for the media in Asaba, organised by the ministry in collaboration with Breakthrough Action for Social and Behavioural Change and the Delta State Government.
Uko said available statistics in Nigeria show that TB has killed more people than COVID-19 since 2019.
She said TB, like COVID-19, shares similar symptoms, adding that it is through testing that the disease can be differentiated from the novel coronavirus.
According to her, anybody with sustained cough for two weeks or more should undergo a test to establish whether the case is a TB infection.
‘TB has a more devastating impact than COVID-19 in Nigeria, but awareness needs to be created for people to come up and get tested for TB and become saved from the disease,’ she remarked.
‘This training is special because this is the first time the ministry is partnering with media houses on information dissemination on TB.
‘The media is expected to build the synergy with the ministry to create awareness on TB and to generate the needed demand for the services which has remained free in the country.
‘TB is treatable particularly if reported early enough, it is spread through air and it presents symptoms such as excessive heat, much sweat at night, cough, cheat pains, fever, weakness, loss of appetite among others.
‘It is deadly, one case can infect 10 to 15 persons in one year. But early detection is necessary to effect treatment and recovery. It is curable and treatment is free in all government facilities.
‘In Nigeria, TB has killed more people than COVID-19. During the pandemic lockdown period, there was significant decline in TB testing and treatment.
‘So, we are organising this training because we want the media to give the same publicity that is given to COVID-19 to TB to ensure that everybody becomes aware of the devastating impact of TB, even in rural communities, and explore the safety window to get treated,’ she said.
Uko said if the people in both urban and rural communities are adequately informed, they would be adequately empowered with knowledge to make informed decisions.
Delta Programme Manager, TB Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer, Dr Alexander Akpodiete, said one in every six people in the country has a TB infection.
‘TB infection lies in the chest but is kept kept dormant by high immunity, and it manifests into TB disease when the individual’s immunity drops,’ he explained.
‘As TB disease, it now active as it presents all the symptoms such as coughing, fever, pains in the heart, heat and sweat at night, loss of weight, among others.
‘It is the commonest killer disease in the world but we are not paying much attention and many people are not aware, as many associate it with witchcraft, among other superstitious beliefs.
‘This is why we need the media. TB is treatable. We need the media to drum it into people’s ear; TB kills more than COVID-19. It is an infectious disease caused by Microbacterium Tuberculosis.
‘In Delta, our target is to reach 13,000 patients but we could only reach only 3,000 patents in 2020.’
Akpodiete said that Delta has 10 facilities for testing TB and that efforts are on to establish more facilities, adding that drugs are available and free, but that the challenge has been generating demand.