Tuberculosis is a disease that has continued to ravage the world, Nigeria inclusive. Available record indicates that the country has only detected 27 per cent of the estimated Tuberculosis (TB) cases. To that extent, therefore, it is important to point out that it is still a disease that the country has to focus on and deploy resources to fight and conquer.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) posited that it is a silent killer which, if undetected, can and do become a problem by fuelling transmissions. Even with this warning, Nigeria is still reported to be very far from achieving its 2025 national target on the disease.
WHO reveals that a total of 1.4 million people died from TB in 2019, and that worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death. In 2019, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with TB worldwide. 5.6 million men, 3.2 million women and 1.2 million children.
As alarming as the information these statistics reveal, the international community including Nigeria believe, erroneously, that Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the ailment deserving of concentrated attention. There is no denying the fact that the pandemic spreads faster and is also just as deadly but neglecting other diseases that are twice as deadly in the process may spell doom in no time. According to Copenhagen Consensus Centre, Nigeria comes third after India and China in terms of TB cases. And that each year, an estimated 245,000 Nigerians die from TB and about 590,000 new cases occur.
The report further states that TB accounts for more than 10 per cent of all deaths in Nigeria, and ‘Every hour, nearly 30 people die from the disease, despite effective treatments being available.’
Profoundly troubling, in the opinion of this newspaper, is that, presently, Nigeria is one of the countries with the lowest detection rates in the world. A report cited earlier claim that only 16 per cent of cases are being notified by the National TB and Leprosy Control Programme (NTLCP).
It would serve the country well, in our considered view, for the country to accept that TB is still a threat. Creating the awareness to prevent more infections and deaths ought to be prioritised.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire recently noted that Nigeria has the highest TB burden in Africa and ranks 6th globally and added that Nigeria is ranked among countries with high burden for TB, HIV and Multi-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB). WHO office in Nigeria, revealed that the undetected infectious TB cases are able to infect from 12 to 15 people per year.
It also noted that the country at the United Nations High Level meeting on TB in 2018, made a pledge to not only diagnose and treat over 1.1 million TB cases but also to place about 2.2 million clients on TB preventive Therapy (TPT) from 2018 to 2022. That pledge is yet to be achieved.
TB is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that affect the lungs. While TB is not a death sentence and can be cured, it is spread from person to person through the air when infected persons, cough, sneeze or spit.
Symptoms of the disease include: coughing that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, loss of appetite.
While there is 25 per cent increase in case notifications in 2020 in the country, TB case detection is still an issue in Nigeria that should be addressed. It continues to remain underfunded, and with COVID-19 taking over, there’s a need to lay emphasis on test for the disease as well. Nigerians should know that access to TB treatment can be found in all the district hospitals in the FCT as well as the National hospital. Both test and treatment are free. While TB is contagious, it is not easy getting infected as one is more likely to contract it from someone they live or work with. Those with TB and have had treatment for about two weeks are no longer considered contagious.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets 2030 to end TB disease. The Copenhagen Consensus Centre proposes a target of 90 per cent reduction in TB deaths and an 80 per cent reduction in new cases by 2030. The organisation states that this is achievable by spending about N81 billion annually to escalate detection rates, and to reinforce primary health care provision, as well as treat many more patients.
On March 24, the world marked the TB day with the theme, ‘The Clock Is Ticking.’ Perhaps it is ticking too fast for Nigeria. We urge the health authorities to devote appropriate time to deal with the disease.