Ahead of the 2021 World Tuberculosis Day, health experts have called for increased case detection and management at community level if the country is to eliminate the disease.
Every March 24, World Tuberculosis Day is celebrated to raise public awareness about the health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
Speaking during a virtual press briefing on Friday, the National Coordinator, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Chukwuma Anyaike, said the country needs to focus on detecting and treating new TB cases.
“Since we are dealing with a highly infectious but treatable disease, we have to focus on detecting these cases and then caring for the affected ones to prevent the spread,” Mr Anyaike said.
“Detection of new cases and placing them on care should be our major focus points.”
According to Mr Anyaike, “the country detected 138,000 cases in 2020 regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic but can do much better with all hands on deck.”
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that often affect the lungs.
It is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.
New data released by ‘Stop TB Partnership’ shows that global treatment and diagnosis of TB cases witnessed a drastic decline in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected over 100 million people worldwide.
The data shows that nine countries that have 60 per cent of the global TB burden saw a drastic decline in diagnosis and treatment of infections in 2020, ranging from 16 per cent to 41 per cent.
These countries include Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.
“In these countries, TB diagnosis and enrolment on treatment in 2020 declined by a total of 1 million, ranging from 16 per cent- 41 per cent (an average of 23 per cent) in individual countries,” Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership, Lucica Ditiu, said during a virtual press briefing on Thursday.
The report indicates that disruptions in services caused by the pandemic have led to further setbacks in progress already made against the disease.
Nigeria remains one of the 30 countries globally with the highest burden of the disease. Nigeria also ranks first in Africa in the number of undetected cases.
Although TB is one of the vaccine-preventable diseases which is also curable, statistics from the 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).
According to Mr Anyaike, stigma and discrimination associated with TB has prevented people from seeking health services.
He said this makes people affected with TB run away from the treatment that they need.
“Ending the stigma and discrimination attached to TB will help improve the reactions of those affected to treatment. They will allow themselves to be detected,” he said.
He said there is a need for more innovative and aggressive approaches to fighting this lingering disease.
The Executive Director, KNCV TB Foundation Nigeria, Bethrand Odume, said one of the major challenges of TB response in the country is low case finding in both adult and children.
He said government, partners and the private sector need to increase their efforts especially with local funding and commitment to ending tuberculosis.
He said it is important for political leaders to scale up research, funding and accountability to find more cases and end the TB surge in Nigeria.
“Diagnosing TB in children has remained very difficult, but KNCV through the fund have equally been introducing innovations, using the stool and using the gen_ expert,” he said.
The TB Team lead, USAID Nigeria, Temitayo Odusote said there is a need for more stakeholders and partners to come on board and join the fight against TB.
“Corporate organisations need to assist us and the government in combatting this disease as we cannot do it without increased partnership,” Mr Odusote said.
A representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Amos Omoniyi, said the theme of 2021 WTD is a clarion call for all to comprehensively scale up interventions.
“To add even more effort to what we have now,” he said.
The theme of World TB Day 2021 is ‘The Clock is Ticking’ and it conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders, according to the WHO.
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