The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) has said that tuberculosis (TB) kills not less than 18 Nigerians in every 60 minutes while about 47 people are newly diagnosed every hour.
The situation was made known in a press release by the Agency to commemorate the 2019 World Tuberculosis Day on March 24.
“TB kills 18 Nigerians every hour. Forty-seven Nigerians develop active TB, seven of which are children, every hour,” the statement read in part.
March 24 of every year is dedicated by the United Nations to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of Tuberculosis as well as stepping up efforts to end the global epidemic.
According to the World Health Organisation, tuberculosis is one of the top ten causes of death globally with about 4,500 lives lost per day. It is also identified as the major leading cause of death of the HIV patients. But the WHO said the disease is preventable and curable, while it called for early diagnosis and treatment to prevent spreading the disease to others.
According to the global TB reports in 2017, there are seven countries that accounted for 64 per cent of the burden and thirty countries have been listed to have the high burden of the disease. Nigeria has been included in the list by securing the seventh position.
Other countries which preceded Nigeria is India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, and South Africa. Thus, this makes Nigeria the second country in Africa who have the highest burden of tuberculosis.
The Nigerian Tuberculosis agency has outlined some of the major challenges of tackling tuberculosis in the country to below reporting cases, attributed partly to poor knowledge about the disease, as well as low coverage of the treatment.
Lovette Lawson, the Board Chairman of Stop TB partnership Nigeria, during a pre-World TB day conference in Abuja, said that over 75 per cent of Nigerians with the disease are yet to be diagnosed or receive any form of treatment. This, he had blamed on the lack of awareness among the communities and the stigmatization of those diagnosed with the ailment.
To curb the spread of the disease, Lawson advised Nigerians who have been coughing for more than two weeks to visit health facilities because an infected person can infect 10 to 15 persons, if not quickly treated.
Receiving a vaccine for tuberculosis has been embraced globally as a way of protecting oneself from being infected. Bacilli Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is the vaccine for the prevention of TB and often administered to children at birth.
TB is an airborne disease, that is, it is spread person to person through the air. When persons with the TB coughs, sniff or spit, they propel germs to the air. If a person inhales only a few of these germs, such a person becomes infected. While anybody could be infected, the most at risk are those suffering from other conditions that impair the immune system such as HIV, and the tobacco users.
The symptoms for the disease include the chest pains, fever, night sweats, weight loss, weakness and cough (at times with sputum and blood)
The Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 54 million lives since the year 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 42%. However, the emergence of drug-resistant TB poses a major health threat and could put at risk the gains made in efforts to end TB. Drug-resistant TB is a public health challenge.
With this year’s theme –“It’s time”, the global leaders, including President Muhammad Buhari, were reminded to urgently act on the commitments made at the United Nations High-level Meeting in September 2018 to end TB.
Also WHO has called on the government of the high burden countries which Nigeria is part of to scale up access with the prevention and treatment of the infectious disease.
It also launched a joint initiative “Find. Treat. All. #EndTB” with the Global Fund and Stop TB Partnership, with the aim of accelerating the TB response and ensuring access to care.