NIGERIA – The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Program has blamed the slow pace of progress in the fight against TB in Nigeria on poor knowledge of the disease among patients and health workers.
The body is worried that ignorance among Nigerians has contributed immensely to the 302,467 missing cases of tuberculosis out of the 409,000 cases expected to be identified annually.
To arrest the tide of infections among citizens, the tuberculosis control body has now called for massive sensitisation about the contagion, across Nigeria, to check further spread.
The Head of Communication and Social Mobilisation, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Mrs Itohowo Uko, made the call at a virtual media parley organised by the Stop TB Partnership in Nigeria to chart a future cause.
Mrs Uko explained that one case of untreated TB infection has the capacity to infect more than 15 other persons within one year.
“The issue of myths and misconceptions poses serious challenges on the transmission of the disease; it is affecting the health behaviour of people who are in the communities.
“Factors such as discrimination, poor information on the disease, stigma and fear of association have prevented so many people from seeking treatments.’’ She said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that every year, about 245,000 Nigerians die from TB, and about 590,000 new cases are discovered.
Mrs Uko says in Nigeria only about 26 per cent of the estimated TB cases are identified.
Nigeria has the highest tuberculosis burden in Africa and we are about 4th or 5th in the whole world after India, Pakistan, and Indonesia, says Dr. Ayodele Awe, the Acting Board Chairman, Stop TB Partnership in Nigeria.
He explained that public awareness and general health worker information on tuberculosis is still very low, warning that only about 27percent of health workers in Nigeria have proper knowledge of Tuberculosis, despite life-threatening and infectious nature the disease.
‘‘If the health worker does not know that every possible cough could be a case of TB and does not ask the relevant questions, then cases will be missed by the health facility, and the patient will end up developing multidrug resistance.”
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has also advised healthcare managers to strengthen the system and take advantage of the attention of policymakers on the sector following the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Head, Risk Control of the NCDC, Yahaya Disu, said, “COVID-19 has attracted the attention of policymakers to the health sector.
However, COVID-19 will not be here forever, but TB has been here for over 100 years and it has been a problem. We must seize this opportunity to effect some changes. There are lessons we can learn from COVID-19 and see how we can translate that to TB.” He advised.