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Tuberculosis

The renewed Tuberculosis scourge

As a result of rising deaths from tuberculosis in the country, health experts recently appealed to the Federal Government to urgently intervene and curb the spread of the disease. The appeal came on the heels of many deaths from the disease.

Speaking during this year’s World Tuberculosis Day (WTD) in Calabar, Cross River State, the Deputy Director of Cochrane Nigeria, Professor Angela Oyo-Ita, disclosed that Nigeria ranked sixth in the world among countries with the highest number of the disease.

She also reiterated that much work should be done to reduce the epidemic, which infected 10 million people and killed two million in 2016 alone worldwide. The theme of this year’s WTD, “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free World,” seeks to build momentum towards the first United Nations General Assembly meeting on TB in September this year, when heads of state and governments and key players will resolve to end TB. For Nigeria to be part of a TB-free world, our political leaders must resolve to end TB in the country.

We believe that the message of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, that “although the African Region has made good progress in controlling TB, we still have the world’s highest levels of the disease,” should spur African leaders to do more to contain the disease.

We lament the increasing deaths from tuberculosis. The Federal and state governments should rise to the challenge and halt the spread of the scourge through increased funding. The nation’s primary health care system should also be improved through adequate funding.

Available statistics showed that in 2015, Nigeria recorded over 600,000 new cases of tuberculosis with 91,354 placed on treatment.

In 2016, Nigeria recorded about 250,000 deaths from tuberculosis. Over 80 per cent of TB cases in Nigeria are undetected.

According to medical experts, tuberculosis is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs. It can also affect other parts of the body. Symptoms of the disease include chronic cough, night sweats, fever, blood in the sputum, weight loss and weakness. It is caused by the bacterium, Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (MTB).

The disease is spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air through coughs and sneezes. The disease is partly preventable by vaccine. While tuberculosis is a life-threatening condition, the good news is that it is curable. Experts say that with early detection of the disease, it can be cured within six months of intensive treatment with prescribed medication.

In Nigeria, the diagnosis and drugs are readily available in all the Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) centres across the country. The global health agency recognises that DOTS is the most cost-effective way to stop the spread of tuberculosis in communities with a high incidence.

WHO says that DOTS is the best curative method for TB. Currently, Nigeria provides DOTS services in about 6,000 health facilities and diagnosis in 1,515 microscopy laboratories in the country. Since the disease is infectious, there is need to quarantine all those affected. The affected individuals should be adequately treated.

Government should provide more Infectious Disease Hospitals (IDHs) in the country, especially in localities where none exists. To prevent further spread of the disease, Nigerians are therefore advised to maintain high level of public hygiene and avoid contact with infected persons.

We urge the government to create more awareness about the disease, the symptoms, curative measures and where to access treatment. The public enlightenment should include preventive measures and the need for washing of hands. Let the government and other stakeholders work in concert to stem the spread of tuberculosis in the country.

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Online Editor: Aderonke Bello
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