In every 100, 000 Nigerians, 219 are affected by Tuberculosis which is commonly referred to as TB, and this makes Nigeria the first in Africa and third in the world among countries with high burden of Tuberculosis.
The above data was given by the National Coordinator of the National TB, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Programme, NTBLCP, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, at a two day meeting in Abuja for engagement of health correspondents of media organisations on TB, who also said it was most worrisome that 313,409 TB cases are still missing and consequently not on treatment, out of 452,000 estimated.
According to the World Health Organisation, one active TB case can transfer the bacteria to between 10 to 15 people in one year, but when a case is identified and placed on treatment, such individual is no longer a public health threat.
This is why the National Coordinator of the National TB, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Programme, NTBLCP, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike is worried that only 25% of Nigerians have correct knowledge about Tuberculosis.
He said the poor level of information among the public is responsible for the low case finding being experienced, despite improvements that have been recently recorded.
According to Anyaike, because adults are not getting the required information for the desired behavioural change among members of the community, cases of TB, leprosy and Buruli ulcer are beginning to rise among children.
“Children get it from the adults, from people who carry them. If you protect yourself, you protect your child. If you get the right information, your child is free.
“For Christ’s sake children shouldn’t be allowed to get leprosy, children shouldn’t be allowed to get Buruli ulcer, children shouldn’t be allowed to have Tuberculosis. It is part of the problem we are having in tuberculosis control. to get it diagnosed in children is a very big issue because you can’t tell them to cough, when they cough they swallow it. but now we’ve come up with new frontiers to get the children diagnosed on time and placed on treatment.
“In terms of Tuberculosis, people still have their babies outside of health care facilities. The BCG is protective, if you go to the hospital once you have the baby they give you that BCG immediately. The people that have their babies outside the healthcare facilities will miss that dose of BCG. So when you come home, ‘ah mama Emeka thank God o the baby we are looking for has come’, and the person carries the baby and you don’t know if the person has tuberculosis, the person infects that baby.”
Anyaike identified the impact of stigma on case finding and treatment of TB cases and appealed to the media to spread the required advocacy to build the desired behavior among members of the public.
He expressed commitment of the Programme to explore various options to meet the information needs of hard to reach areas in the country.
“Tell Nigeria, tell the whole world that we are making efforts to end these three diseases in Nigeria. If people, your neigbours start avoiding you because you had tuberculosis once, without minding that you have been cured, it is a very big issue. You have a wound, gaping wound that has been taken care of, people won’t even come to you, people won’t even want to come near you because the wound may be smelling.
“So they come with a lot of behavioural and mental issues that have to be tackled and that is why we think that the media is key, why we also do our oown bit by going to the hinterlands, going to the hard to reach areas, to riverine areas, coastal areas, the mountaineous areas. We are moving to those places because they die there, we don’t even have the data, no person goes to those places.”
While pointing out that malnutrition and HIV are key risk factors for TB, Dr. Anyaike expressed worry that only 8441 TB cases are identified out of estimated 77000 Child TB cases.