By Ifeanyi Olannye
Ms Itohowo Uko, director of advocacy, communication and social mobilization and head of the national tuberculosis and leprosy program at the ministry, said this during a virtual media workshop on Wednesday in Asaba.
The Nigerian News Agency (NAN) reports that the workshop was organized by the ministry in collaboration with Breakthrough Action for Social and Behavioral Change and the Delta government.
Uko said statistics available in Nigeria show tuberculosis has killed more people than COVID-19 from 2019 to date.
She said there had been a significant drop in TB testing and treatment during the COVID-19 lockdown.
She said tuberculosis shared similar symptoms with COVID-19, adding that only a lab test could prove the difference.
Uko said anyone who has had a cough for two weeks or more should be tested to determine if it was tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis has had a more devastating impact than COVID-19 in Nigeria, she said, but awareness needs to be created for people to get tested.
“This training is special because it is the first time that the ministry has partnered with media houses to disseminate information on tuberculosis.
“The media should synergize with the ministry to raise awareness about TB and generate the necessary demand for free services in the country.
“Tuberculosis is treatable, especially if it is reported early enough.
“It is spread through the air and has symptoms such as excessive heat, a lot of sweat at night, cough, chest pain, fever, weakness and loss of appetite, among others.
“It’s fatal. A case can infect 10 to 15 people in a year, but early detection is needed for treatment and recovery.
“It’s curable and the treatment is free at all government facilities,” Uko said.
She said the essence of the training was to get the media to give the same publicity as COVID-19 to TB to make sure everyone is aware of its devastating impact and explores the safety window to get treatment.
Uko said that if people in both urban and rural communities were properly informed, they would be sufficiently equipped with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions.
Delta tuberculosis leprosy and Buruli ulcer program director Dr Alexander Akpodiete said one in six people in the country were infected with tuberculosis.
Akpodiete said: “Tuberculosis comes in two forms, infection and disease.
“Her infection resides in the chest, but is kept dormant by strong immunity but manifests as tuberculosis when the individual’s immunity wanes.
“As tuberculosis, she is now active because she has all the symptoms such as cough, fever, heart pain, heat and sweat at night and weight loss, among others.
“It’s the most common fatal disease in the world, but we don’t pay much attention to it.
“A lot of people don’t know about it because they associate it with witchcraft and other superstitious beliefs. That’s why we need the media.
“Tuberculosis is treatable, we need the media to get it into people’s ears.
“Tuberculosis kills. It is an infectious disease caused by Microbacterium Tuberculosis.
“At Delta, our goal is to reach 13,000 patients, but we could only reach 3,000 in 2020”,
He said Delta has 10 TB testing centers and efforts are underway to establish more. (NOPE)
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