Dr Ugochukwu Chukwulobelu, Programme Manager, Anambra State Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Management, says the state ranks highest in Childhood Tuberculosis (TB) contribution in Nigeria.
Chukwulobelu made the disclosure at the ongoing stakeholders’ engagement organised by the Federal Ministry of Health, in partnership with the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation and Breakthrough Action Nigeria, on Thursday in Awka.
He described TB as an airborne disease caused by a bacteria called “Mycobacterium tuberculosis” which usually attacks the lungs and could also damage other parts of the body.
The programme manager said the disease spreads through the air when a person with tuberculosis of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes or talks.
“According to statistics on TB burden, Nigeria ranks number six in the world and number one in Africa, with every local government having TB cases.
“Anambra has the highest burden of TB drug resistance cases and childhood TB contribution in the South-East and Nigeria. This is not a good thing for the state.
“To reduce the high burden of TB, the state government, in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) and other partners, set up 14 laboratories with gene Xpert machines for diagnoses.
“We have about 800 Directly Observed Treatments (DOTS) Centres for TB, but the major problem is lack of awareness among residents about TB, its diagnosis and treatment,” he said.
Chukwulobelu urged the media to intensify reportage on the burden and symptoms of the disease as well as how and where patients could get medical help.
“Persistent cough for two weeks or more, fever, unexplainable weight loss and drenching night sweats are signs used to screen patients.
“Residents should report suspected cases of TB within their communities.
“TB patients should also adhere to their treatments to prevent drug resistance TB cases which are even more dangerous.
“Everyone has a role to play to reduce the burden of the disease,” the programme manager said.
Also, Dr Chijioke Oke of KNCV-Nigeria, said children living with adults, who have TB, children who are HIV positive and malnourished children, were at risk of getting TB.
Oke identified low childhood TB awareness, stigma, low funding for childhood TB and low index suspicion for childhood TB by healthcare providers, as some of the challenges with the control of the disease in the state.
He said that children’s stool was required to test children for TB, because they do not know how to spit out sputum after coughing, but rather swallow it.
“Our major challenge with Childhood TB control in the state is that parents are scared and do not allow doctors to take their children’s stool for test.
“Some of them think the medical personnel want to use their children’s stool for ‘juju’.
“It shows the level of ignorance and lack of awareness among residents,” Oke said.