The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), has said at least three out of four persons afflicted with tuberculosis are yet to access health care in Nigeria.
An official of the outfit also identified myths and misconceptions as major challenges affecting TB transmission, control and prevention.
The Head of Communication and Social Mobilisation of NTBLCP, Itohowo Uko, on Wednesday said only 26 per cent of the estimated TB cases in Nigeria “were identified and have been put on treatment”.
She said this at a virtual TB media roundtable with the theme “Improving TB awareness creation: Lessons from COVID-19,” which held on Monday.
She said “there is an overflow of 74 per cent 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,” she also said. “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.”
Ms Uko also said, “one case of untreated TB actually affects 15 more people within one year and 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.”
She said “many people are still not aware of tuberculosis and some do not even believe that tuberculosis is real.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic which is the current normal that we are facing 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.”
Similarly, the Chairman, Board of Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Ayodele Awe, said Nigeria has the highest tuberculosis burden in Africa.
“This places the country on the 4th or 5th position in the whole world after India, Pakistan, and Indonesia,” he said.
“For TB, public information and general health worker information is still very low,” Mr Awe added.
According to a survey carried out by the agency on the knowledge of TB among health workers and the public, it said 27 per cent of them know about the cause of the disease while some think of it as witchcraft.
Meawnhile, the Head of Risk Control of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Yahaya Disu, said, health providers must take advantage of the attention on health at this period to strengthen the system.
“The major problem has been communication issues. Since COVID-19 is changing things and giving attention to communication issues, we need to seize that advantage. There are lessons we can learn from COVID-19 and see how we can translate that to TB.”