TB kills more Nigerians than COVID-19, but only a few people know about the disease – Official

Despite being a leading cause of death in Nigeria, much higher than the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of awareness for tuberculosis, best known as TB, is still very low, health officials said.

Nigeria ranks among countries of the world with a large number of people dying from the disease, but only 31 per cent of the affected population have so far registered for treatment.

It is estimated that 18 persons die of TB every hour in Nigeria.

This concern was raised at a media training on TB organised by Breakthrough Action, an nongovernmental funded by the United State Aid (USAID).

The sub-virtual media training which has a gathering of participants joining in through Zoom from seven states of Nigeria aims at using the media to rekindle awareness of the disease.

While giving a general overview of TB at the beginning of the training, one of the facilitators, Ebere Okoh, of the National Tuberculosos and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), said the outbreak of COVID-19, last year has worsened the situation of the disease in Nigeria as patients suffering from the disease did not get access to medical treatment due to lockdown.

Mrs Okoh said a 2020 WHO Global Tunerculosis Report of indicated that an estimated 150,000 people have died in Nigeria as a result of the disease in 2019 alone.

According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), a total of 2,061 persons have, as of Monday April 19, died as a result of COVID-19.

The WHO global report on TB also said that 47 Nigerians who develop active TB infection are children.

A cross section of participants at the training

The NTBLCP official worries that even as the Global report on TB has suggested that the disease is more fatal than COVID-19, the global media attention still shifted to the pandemic while TB continues to take its deadly toll on lives.

“Sadly the knowledge of TB transmission, its symptoms and prevention is still very low,” she told journalists connected to the virtual training.

“One case of untreated pulmonary TB can infect 10-15 persons in a year.”

She said while the pandemic continues to get the media attention, TB, being a worse killer disease should also be given equal or more publicity to save lives.

“If we must kick out TB in Nigeria, the media must partner with officials of NTBLCP and other health officials in advocacy and increased budgetary provision for the TB control programme.

Nigeria ranks seventh among 30 countries with high burden of TB and second in Africa.

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