As Nigerians join the rest of the world to commemorate the 2021 World Tuberculosis Day, health experts have called for more awareness to ensure cases are reported at an early stage.
The Chairman of the 2021 Tuberculosis (TB) Day committee, Ayodele Awe, while speaking at a medical outreach in Lugbe community on Wednesday said TB is curable only if detected early.
“Each year, we increase the awareness of the community on tuberculosis, we want to remove the unnecessary stigma that is associated with the disease,” Awe said.
“More awareness like this is needed for them to know the signs and symptoms associated with tuberculosis.”
To create awareness about the impact of TB, World Tuberculosis Day is marked on March 24 every year.
The day is held to raise public awareness about the health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global epidemic.
The theme of World TB Day 2021 is ‘The Clock is Ticking’ and Nigeria’s localised slogan is ‘That cough fit be Tuberculosis not COVID, check am o.’
The theme is a wake-up call for Nigeria to accelerate TB response to reach the set targets in the 2021-2025 National TB Strategic Plan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Mulombo, said during the launch of the Unified TB campaign in Abuja on Tuesday.
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.
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.
Despite TB being a vaccine-preventable disease, 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 Awe, any cough that lasts more than 2 weeks is a TB suspect and should be checked immediately.
He said the federal government is providing machines to test anyone that is coughing, and the sputum is also used to determine the level of TB disease.
“The citizen should know that they can walk to any designated facility to access treatment in each local government,” Mr Awe said.
The National Coordinator of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTLCP), Chukwuma Anyaike, said the outreach was necessary to educate people at the grassroots about the impact of the disease.
Represented by the Head, Advocacy and Communication and Social Mobilization, NTLCP, Itohowo Ukoh, he said the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the health system and is discouraging people from going to the hospital.
“Many patients have been hiding under the guise of fear by not going for COVID-19 test due to the fear of going to the isolation centre,” he said.
“We want you all to know that TB can be treated like any other ailment.”
Mr Anyaike said the more people know about TB, the lesser the burden on individuals and the society in general.
“Knowledge they say is power, when you give an individual the right information, he or she would be able to take decision on his or her life from an informed position,” he said.
“We have been able to sensitize them on the simple signs of TB and the reason they need to go and do a test.”
He urged health workers to provide adequate services to patients who present themselves for testing or treatment.
A TB survivor, Francis Ekong, while giving an account of his treatment encouraged the public to get tested when the need arises.
“The test is free, the treatment is free, the food is free. Everything about tuberculosis is free. All you need to do is to submit yourself,” Mr Ekong said.
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