The recent report that Nigeria has the second highest incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in Africa and 7th among the 30 high TB burden countries in the world is disturbing. The damning report is indeed a wake-up call on the nation’s health authorities to step up strategies to contain the preventable, curable but rampaging scourge. The report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked Nigeria among the 14 high burden countries for TB, TB/HIV and Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDRTB).
According to the 2017 Global TB Report, Nigeria is among the 10 countries that accounted for 64 per cent of the global gap in “missing TB cases” or undetected cases.
This was disclosed in Lagos recently by the Acting Coordinator, Non Communicable Diseases Cluster, WHO, Dr. Linda Ozor, who was also saddened by the fact that “every hour, 18 Nigerians die of TB, a disease that is preventable and curable.” She also called on the private corporate organisations and private health institutions to take TB control as one of their corporate social responsibilities.
In the same vein, the enormity of the TB burden was also acknowledged by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who expressed the need to step up the fight against TB in the country. However, the good news is that the government has promised to tackle the scourge through accelerated case finding to reach everyone with the disease.
We recall that 2017 was declared as the year of accelerated TB case finding. That is locating those that have the disease in other to treat them. Since then, the government has not relented. At present, Nigeria has a total of 400,000 TB cases. Out of this figure, only 100,000 were reported. It records an average of 40,680 cases yearly. In 2017, it treated a little above 100,000 cases.
Of all the 36 states of the federation, Lagos State has the highest TB burden in the country. To contain the scourge in the state, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said the state has 926 TB treatment centres, 108 TB microscopy and 30 GeneXpert sites with at least one machine in each of the 20 local Government Areas of the state.
According to medical experts, tuberculosis is a serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs. It can be spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air through coughs and sneezes. The signs and symptoms of the disease include coughing that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain, or pain with breathing. Others are unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills and loss of appetite.
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There is no doubt that we have a huge TB burden. What is important now is for the government and other stakeholders in the health sector to muster the political will to tackle it and change the narrative. In spite of the fact that TB is preventable and curable, the problem of funding cannot be dismissed.
In March this year, some health experts appealed to leaders and government at all levels to support evidence-based policies and direct funding for TB control. They particularly urged the Federal Government to pay more attention to funding and work toward sending the epidemic.To curb the spread of TB, there is the need for public hygiene.
Experts have also pointed out that improved basic sanitation and living conditions can lead to a decrease of the disease. It is also vital to quarantine those that have the disease to avoid spreading it. We urge the government to tackle the TB scourge the way it did the Ebola virus disease.
The public should do away with the superstitious belief that the disease is caused by their presumed enemies and avail themselves of treatment. The good news is that TB is not a death sentence. It is preventable and curable. Government should enlighten the public on the symptoms of the disease, preventive measures and where to access treatment.