BY Fidelis Akahomen
As Nigeria remains one of the 30 countries globally with the highest tuberculosis (TB) burden, health experts express worries as 74 percent of estimated cases are either undetected or untreated.
Head of communication and social mobilisation, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Itohowo Uko, at a virtual TB media roundtable tagged “Improving TB awareness creation: Lessons from COVID-19 said that only 26 percent of the estimated TB cases in the country have been identified and placed on treatment.
“We still have well over 74 percent of the estimated cases that are still in the communities”.
“One case of untreated TB can actually affect 15 more people within one year”, she said.
Speaking on the challenges encountered by the TB programme in the country, Uko said: “Many people are still not aware of it, and some do not even believe that tuberculosis is real. This 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.”
Furthermore, she cited low awareness and available services, myth and conceptions, stigmatisation and low information, as other challenges that has hampered the programme.
“Even the health workers themselves do not believe in the mode of transmission of TB. And even some of them are reluctant to handle samples for TB, due to the similarities of its symptoms to that of COVID-19. This has really hampered the TB programme in Nigeria,” she said.
On his part, deputy director, Health Orientation and communication National Orientation Agency (NOA), Olufemi Ayoola said: “The problem is that the perception of tuberculosis in Nigeria is very low. COVID-19 came with a perception of a new disease that we do not know anything about.”
“We must change the perception of TB in Nigeria to let people see that TB is still a problem in Nigeria, It can kill and it is endemic in in the country. We must bring all stakeholders on board, and let TB be perceived as emergency in Nigeria.”