Experts have raised the alarm on the virulence of tuberculosis (TB) warning that that the infectious disease kills more people than either COVId-19 or HIV in Nigeria and globally. However, in government hospitals in Nigeria, diagnosis and treatment of TB are entirely free.
These are part of the message that media practitioners were tasked to spread to the nooks and crannies of Nigeria in a one-day training programme organized by the Federal Ministry of Health nationwide on Wednesday.
The virtual training programme, anchored by the Manager, National TB, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Programme (NTBLCP), Mrs. Itohowo Ukon, was to create awareness through the media for Nigerians to know that Tuberculosis is never far away but it is treatable and curable. And testing and treatment are free.
Explaining that Tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs just like Covid-19, Mrs. Ukon noted that on the average, for every six persons (or a family of six), one is infected by the disease. However, unless an infected person is tested or shows symptoms, it does not manifest early enough, especially when the subject’s immunity is still high.
According to her, anyone having a cough that lasts over two weeks, low fever, chest pain, coughing blood and loss of weight should go to any government hospital for free TB test.
She explained that tuberculosis is usually spread through the air when an infected persons coughs, sneezes, shouts or sings and the droplets of spittle from the droplets hanging in the air around the affected person is inhaled.
She said: “TB is spread not through sharing of drinking cups, not through sharing of spoons, not through sharing of plates nor eating in the same plate.
“When the person with the tuberculosis of the lungs happens to cough, sneeze or shout, the droplets from the mouth or nose hangs in the air and some other person coming into that environment might inhale the droplets and it goes into the lungs and after some time, will develop tuberculosis.
“But the good news is that, for all these, diagnosis and testing are free in all government hospitals. It is also available in Treatment Centres. So, if somebody is coughing for two weeks or more, he or should go for a test. And if it is confirmed it is TB, the treatment is free.”
She therefore enjoined media practitioners to employ their professionalism to reach out to Nigerians in every nook and cranny of the country to spread the message that tuberculosis is not far away, and that anyone with its symptoms should go for test and treatment.
The expert also warned that an infected person who is not treated in time, is capable of spreading the disease to 15 persons living around him within one year.
Ukon stressed that the purpose of the training was for journalists to partner with the ministry to spread the message of the tuberculosis menace to Nigerians concerning its seriousness as the number one infectious killer disease.
Also speaking during the training, the Delta State Programme Manager for Tuberculosis, Dr. Akpodiete Alexander, said TB is spreading in Nigeria like wild fire.
He also reiterated that any infected persons who is not treated will, in one year, spread TB to at least 15 persons in his or her environment.
“Every family knows about HIV, but not every family knows about TB because we have not drummed it into people’s ears. And the only way we can get to the nooks and crannies is by making the media people to know.
“So, any time you are making your news, any time you are airing community activities, we want you people to know that the infectious disease that is killing people more than any other disease, is TB.
“That is why we arranged for this training for the media for a partnership to create awareness for the people of the seriousness of Tuberculosis disease.
The signs and symptoms of TB are very similar to Covid-19, but the cough in Covid-19 is very rapid going down the hill if not treated. But for TB it goes gradually, he added.