Despite the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Tuberculosis (TB) control programme in Nigeria, the country recorded a 15 per cent increase in TB case notifications in 2020.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Mulombo, made this known at the launch of the Unified TB campaign in Abuja on Tuesday.
The launch was done ahead of the 2021 World Tuberculosis Day, celebrated on March 24 every year to raise public awareness about the health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
“It is on record that Nigeria recorded a 15 per cent increase in TB case notifications in 2020 compared with the previous year,” Mr Mulombo said.
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, according to Mr Mulombo.
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).
Dangerous but Underfunded
Mr Mulombo said about 70 per cent of the TB budget in 2020 were unfunded, posing a major threat to the country efforts in achieving the set targets.
He explained that many people are pushed into poverty when they contract TB due to lost income, transport costs and other expenses.
He said 71 per cent of TB patients in Nigeria and their household are affected by catastrophic cost due to TB.
According to the country representative, TB remains one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent (ranking above HIV/AIDS).
“Globally, there are an estimated 10 million people with TB in 2019, with Nigeria and seven other countries accounting for two-thirds of the global total,” he said.
Low case detection
Mr Mulombo said low TB case detection remains a major challenge in the TB control efforts in Nigeria, with the country detecting only 27 per cent of the estimated incident TB cases.
“The undetected TB cases can further constitute pool of reservoir that fuel on-going transmission of TB in the community, as one undetected infectious TB case is able to infect between 12 – 15 people per year,” he said.
He noted that Nigeria is far from achieving the targets set to diagnose and treat over a million TB cases before 2022.
“Nigeria at the United Nations High Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB in 2018 made a commitment to diagnose and treat over 1.1 million TB cases and place about 2.2 million clients on TB Preventive Therapy (TPT) from 2018 to 2022,” he said.
“The country is far away from achieving these targets with less than 2 years to go.”
He said the international health agency will continue to support Nigeria in developing and implementing guidelines, plans, framework and strategic documents to end TB epidemic.
In his remarks, Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the focus of this year’s theme and slogan is timely in view of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Because the two diseases share similar symptoms, the need to have appropriate diagnosis for both diseases to determine the actual cause of any cough is crucial,” Mr Ihekweazu said.
He said a patient may be infected by both COVID-19 and Tuberculosis.
Mr Ihekweazu said the theme “clock is ticking” is a call for all stakeholders, communities, and well spirited individuals to join hands in the fight against Tuberculosis.
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