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OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION

WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY: SPECIAL REPORT 

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WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY: SPECIAL REPORT                                                                                                                    24-03-24

By Sadiq Aminu                                                         The 24th of March every year, has been set aside to raise awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and to step up efforts to eradicate the disease.

Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is caused by a bacterium (name of the bacterium) that often affects the lungs. It is spread from an infected person to another through the air.

The World Health Organization describes tuberculosis as one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, with Nigeria holding the first position in Africa for the number of undetected cases.

As Nigeria joins the rest of the global community to commemorate the day, Sadiq Aminu of Africa 247, examines some factors that predisposes one to the disease, possible treatment and preventive measures in the fight against tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is an air-borne disease caused by a type of bacterium called mycobacterium Tuberculosis which affects the lungs.

It can also affect other parts of the body like the brain, spine, fallopian tubes, kidneys and the skin.

According to the Director, Global Tuberculosis Programme at the World Health Organization, WHO, Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, proactive measures had been taken to save over 75 million lives against TB.

Dr. Kasaeva however, called on world leaders to increase investments to stem the tide as over 3,000 persons still die daily from the preventable and curable disease.

Despite being a vaccine-preventable disease, statistics from the WHO shows that every year, over 200,000 Nigerians die from TB with over 500,000 new cases recorded.

The data further shows that Nigeria ranks as the sixth nation with the highest number of TB cases globally.

A representative of WHO, Dr. Amos Omoniyi, noted that one person dies of TB every 5 minutes in Nigeria and called on government at all levels to intensify funding on efforts to accomplish the country’s goal of eradicating the disease by 2030.

“It is so sad that every 5 minutes, a death certificate is issued for a patient that is dying from a disease like TB that is curable, from a disease that can be prevented and as WHO, over the years, we have provided support that has helped the programme to address all those challenges.”

The Chairman Medical Advisory Committee at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Dr. Uchenna Nwedu, mentioned some of the factors that could predispose one to contracting TB to include HIV/AIDS, diabetes, patients on chemotherapy, smoking and illicit use of tobacco, malnutrition as well as exposure to patients with TB.

Dr. Nwedu who is also a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, said children were prone to the disease and highlighted some measures to be taken to prevent it.

“It can be prevented by avoiding smoking, avoiding overcrowded environment and ensuring that BCG vaccine is received by children at birth.”

The Director for Health, Equity and Development, Dr. Mafeni Jerome said the major symptom of the disease was persistent cough for over two weeks and advised patients with such symptom to visit the hospital and get tested to avoid complications.

“If they are caught early, there’s a chance that they can recover, if they are not put on treatment early or they don’t take the treatment consistently for the length of time that is required, then they can develop drug resistant tuberculosis and when this really gets bad, then you will see people who will begin to cough blood then it means that the TB has eaten holes into the tissues in the body and they will begin to lose weight and of course eventually, they will die.”

The theme for this year’s TB day is “Yes, We can End TB” while Nigeria’s slogan is “No gree for TB, check am o”

The Executive Director of the KNCV TB Foundation Nigeria, Dr. Bethrand Odume, said progress had been made in research and development, leading to the creation of new TB diagnosis tools, more effective treatment and preventive regimens, and the advancement of several vaccines.

“KNCV Nigeria has work with states TB programme to detect and put over 200,000 patients in treatment and the good news about this is that majority of these people would have been missed if not because of the innovations that we brought on board in our intervention across these states.”

A TB survivor and Advocate, Mr. Ejiga Justice explained the trauma he passed through when he had the disease and appealed to the federal government to set up legal frameworks and policies against stigmatization.

I started the treatment and within 4 months, I was discharged from the hospital. Returning back to Abuja, I collected a letter again from the secretariat to my employer to get my job back. The Head of HR told me point blank, Justice we cannot take you back because if another person comes down with this disease, it will be as if he contracted from you. That day, I cried home to go and meet my wife and my 5 month old baby that I could no longer provide for.”

The National Coordinator of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy, and Buruli Ulcer Control Programme, Dr. Labaran Shehu, acknowledged the persistent lack of awareness, particularly in rural areas, as a significant threat to the ongoing endeavours to address the disease.

In January this year, Global Fund donated 933 million dollars to Nigeria to address the impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, as well as to enhance preparedness for future pandemics.

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