Tuberculosis is an air borne disease that is more common in men than in women in Nigeria. Although it can occur anywhere in the body, tuberculosis of the lung is the most common type while an untreated case can infect an average of 10 -15 people in a year. It can also hide in the spine to cause other maladies in the body. Tuberculosis lasts longer in the air than COVID-19 and can be asymptomatic as a result so many people have TB but are not aware.
There is also the case of Drug Resistant TB which occurs when TB treatment is not well adhered to or when someone is infected directly by someone with Drug Resistant TB. This is why when a positive case is found in a household, it is the right of other members of the house hold and close contacts to be screened for free and placed on preventive treatment when found to have the infection yet not sick ( Preventive Therapy).
To reduce the rate at which it spreads, there is need to increase its awareness in the society, while educating the public especially as there are so many myths around Tuberculosis. Such myths among others include the belief that tuberculosis is a death sentence and that it is not curable. These myths are responsible for the undue stigmatization and discrimination (even by family members) against people with Tuberculosis. There is also need to educate the general public to go for TB Test even when they have no symptoms.
Lack of TB awareness is a very big issue as people lack information on risk factors for tuberculosis, how to diagnose TB, TB Treatments, as well as Drug Resistant TB. Since an untreated case can infect an average of 10 -15 people in a year, awareness creation is the way to go because it can drastically reduce TB spread while ensuring its end. This makes it imperative for the involvement of critical stakeholders like the media and religious leaders in regular sensitization of TB.
Most people are not even aware that TB treatment is free and can be accessed in every government facility in the state. Pathetically children can also come down with TB. This happens when a child coughs for more than two weeks, fails to gain weight, or has contact with TB patient. Low childhood TB awareness among the general populace has resulted to poor health seeking behavior, low funding for childhood TB Control, and other challenges with childhood TB Control.
Prevention they say is better than cure, to prevent TB adequate knowledge of the things to do or avoid is required. Such things like avoiding crowded places, maintaining good cough etiquette and putting all eligible contacts, especially children on TB Preventive Treatment(TPT) are achievable with increased awareness.
According to Break through ACTION Nigeria (BA-N), a total of 6361 ( six thousand three hundred and sixty one) persons were diagnosed of tuberculosis in the 4th quarter of 2022 in Rivers State.
The Senior Programmes Officer II of Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria ( BA-N),Dr. Joseph Paul Edor had in a training organized for journalists in collaboration with the Ministry of Health on ‘Tuberculosis and Tuberculosis Related Reporting in Rivers State disclosed that there was a significant increase in TB cases from around 2000 to 6361 in a period of one year.
“Basically if you look at the Rivers State statistics on tuberculosis presented today, you would find out that the state made significant improvement in discovery of more tuberculosis cases from over two thousand cases to over six thousand cases over the last one year,” he hinted.
On how to know a potential TB patient, Dr Paul said anyone who coughs for two weeks or more, or any one with low grade fever, unexplainable weight loss or drenching night sweat, is a tuberculosis presumptive and as such should go for screening.
Regretting the degree of stigma associated with the disease among the community people, he urged religious leaders. community members, leaders and different stakeholders to begin to normalize conversations around tuberculosis, that way people with the disease would not continue to run underground and would not continue to support the spread of the disease.
On challenges facing eradication and awareness, he said poor funding and lack of access to some communities is hampering the effective discovery of persons with the ailment, adding that active case search in communities, symptomatic screening of all Out Patients Department attendees for TB, contact tracing of TB patients, Placement of qualified contacts on preventive therapy among others are their strategic interventions.
He expressed belief that as agenda setters and critical stakeholders, media regular involvement and sensitization is needed in the fight to end TB and called for improved media partnership to spread the awareness concerning TB.
” We also know that media coverage for TB activities is also a challenge because we need more funding to be able to put more jingles out there regularly, we also need more funding for media persons to be able to collect human angles stories that presents the real challenges that people face in the communities and present to everyone across the state.
Maybe, here in Rivers State, we think that the reach of the media activity need to improve and at this level, a lot of effort is being done but more is needed for everyone in the villages to get these messages”, he said.
Dr Paul noted that the essence of the training was to bring media personnel in Rivers State together to understand the challenge of TB in the state and to collectively have a conversation on how to improve awareness around TB generally.
“In this conversation today, we are trying to make them see how important they are in the scale of things and how they can set the agenda for conversations around TB and the issues around stigma, so we believe that from this meeting today, more awareness and opportunities would be created and there are many other things we can explore to see that awareness about TB both in adults and children can be put on the table, that way, we would see that the number of cases the state has been finding, would likely increase because more people would be knowing about TB around them in their communities”.
On her part, the senior Programmes Manager of KNC Nigeria for Rivers State, an NGO supporting the fight against TB, Dr. Nera Khadiri-Ene, said the training was necessary to enhance the awareness around TB especially to the communities.
” Today, in collaboration with Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria, we are creating awareness to our communities and media people to say that, yes, we can end TB, if all of us out there know more about the disease, and the media are the ones to help us do this that’s why we have gathered them to see that they understand and are able to translate it to the common man out there”.
“The awareness we are embarking upon this time is going to transcend both the media and religious leaders and even community leaders because we are moving away from the health facilities to the communities to tell them about the TB surge and what we can do to end it,” she informed.
The focal Person, Advocacy, Community and Social Mobilisation of Tuberculosis Unit in the state, Dr Tina Oghani who enumerated their efforts in eradicating tuberculosis stressed that they have has gone as far as engaging chemist shops and pharmaceutical shops in active case search in their resolve to end TB.
The training also featured presentation by Mrs. Nkoyo Umoh who called for support from the media in creating awareness about the disease. She opined that the media can present data on TB in an interesting way that can raise awareness.
Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria (BA-N), is a non-governmental organisation in the forefront of the campaign for eradication of tuberculosis in Nigeria.