By Steve Oko – Aba
No fewer than 18 persons die of tuberculosis per hour in Nigeria according to a report by the World Health Organization, WHO.
The Director, National Tuberculosis & Leprosy Control Programme, Mrs. Itohowo Uko who disclosed this in a virtual media seminar with select newsmen in Abia and Enugu, said that “TB kills more people than covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria”.
She said that about 150,000 persons died of tuberculosis in Nigeria in 2019 alone according to the WHO report.
According to the NTLCP Director, the inability of TB patients to access medication during the covid-19 lockdown worsened the spread of tuberculosis in the country.
She identified symptoms of tuberculosis as fever, loss of weight, and protracted cough.
Mrs Uko however said that contrary to misinformation, tuberculosis is curable, urging people with a persistent cough that has lasted for two weeks to go for a test.
According to her, with early diagnosis, tuberculosis could be cured within six months, adding that treatment of tuberculosis is free at designated hospitals in the country.
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She however urged TB patients to endeavour to complete the treatment cycle of six months to avoid its relapse as some patients usually discontinue with medication after the initial relief after two weeks of treatment.
According to her, a TB patient is likely to develop drug resistance which is more dangerous if such patient fails to complete the six months cycle of treatment.
She said that an untreated TB patient could infest 15 more persons in one year.
She dispelled the notion in some quarters that TB is contracted through sharing of plates, cups and cutlery, or projected through witchcraft, explaining that the disease is only airborne.
One of the resource persons, Dr. Charles Ugwuanyi, said that the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic worsened the plight of TB patients as they could not access treatment during the lockdown.
He explained that while TB and covid-19 pandemic share similar symptoms, patients should go for early diagnosis so as to establish their particular case.
Dr. Ugwuanyi noted that while covid-19 associated cough is dry, TB’s cough is productive and produces mucus.
He cautioned against stigmatization against TB patients, regretting that there is a significant reduction in people with cough seeking treatment for TB due to stigma of being considered covid-19 patient.
In a remark, Abia Programme Manager for TB, Dr. Okorie Onuka, appealed to media practitioners to assist in sensitising the public about the causes, prevention and treatment of tuberculosis.