• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Amid COVID-19, experts worry over poor awareness on tuberculosis in Nigeria

Amid COVID-19, experts worry over poor awareness on tuberculosis in Nigeria

While Nigeria is still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, health experts are concerned over poor awareness of the world’s most deadly infectious disease Tuberculosis (TB), as about 74 percent of the estimated cases are still in the community.

Itohowo Uko, head of communication and social mobilisation, the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) said at a virtual TB media roundtable with the theme “Improving TB awareness creation: Lessons from Covid-19 held in Abuja, that tuberculosis knowledge in Nigeria was still low.

“We are only able to identify 26 percent of the estimated TB cases in Nigeria. And we are able to put them on treatments, but what that means is that we still have an overflow of 74 percent of the estimated cases that are still in the community.”

“The issue of myths and misconceptions has actually posed serious challenges about the transmission of the disease and it is actually affecting the health behaviour of people who are in the community. Even the health workers themselves sometimes don’t actually believe in the transmission,” she said.

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Uko further listed other factors fuelling the disease to include discrimination, lack of accurate information, stigma, and fear of association with TB. These, she said, have prevented many people from seeking treatments.

“One case of untreated TB actually affects 15 more people within one year. Nigeria can see what that means for the country to have seen a huge number of TB patients, still in the community, not identified, or treated.

“Many people are still not aware of it, and some do not even believe that tuberculosis is real. With the current normal that we are facing- COVID 19 pandemic, this has actually impacted negatively on the initial health-seeking behaviour of most of our people, as well as the adherence to even those that have been placed on treatments,” she said.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that every year, around 245,000 Nigerians die from TB, and about 590,000 new cases occur (of these, around 140,000 are also HIV-positive).

Over the last decade, Nigeria still is struggling with the increasing incidence of tuberculosis cases. Currently, there is no effective vaccine to prevent TB.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis; the most frequent symptoms include cough of two weeks or more, weight loss, night sweat, and loss of appetite.

Covid-19 is not the only disease that threatens public health in Nigeria. However, the country remains one of the 30 countries globally with the highest burden of TB. Nigeria also ranks first in Africa with the highest number of undetected cases.

“The problem is that the perception of tuberculosis in Nigeria is very low. Covid-19 came with a perception of a new disease that we do not know anything about,” said Olufemi Ayoola, deputy director, Health Orientation and communication National Orientation Agency (NOA).