Statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that Tuberculosis, a pulmonary disease characterised by persistent coughing, killed more Nigerians in 2019 than the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 WHO ‘global tuberculosis report’ stated that an estimated 150,000 Nigerians died of TB in 2019 alone while the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said 2,061 persons died of COVID-19 in the country since the index case in February 2020.
The different datas suggest that COVID-19 has so far killed only about 1.4 per cent of the number killed by TB in 2019 alone.
This data on TB was discussed in Maiduguri Tuesday at a media orientation on Tuberculosis organised by Breakthrough Action, an NGO supported by USAID.
The WHO report on TB said Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of people dying from the disease, “but only 31 per cent of the affected population has so far registered for treatment.”
It is estimated that 18 persons die of TB every hour in Nigeria.
The media training had participants joining in through zoom from seven states of Nigeria and was aimed at using the media to rekindle awareness of the disease.
An official of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Ebere Okoh, 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 the lockdown.
Mrs Okoh said, “2020 WHO Global Tuberculosis Report indicated that an estimated 150,000 people have died in Nigeria as a result of the disease in 2019 alone.”
She said the WHO report also revealed that 47 per cent of Nigerians who develop active TB infection are children.
The NTBLCP official stated that even though TB is more deadly than COVID-19, the Nigerian media still focus more attention on the pandemic.
“Sadly, the knowledge of TB transmission, its symptoms and prevention is still very low. One case of untreated pulmonary TB can infect 10-15 persons in a year,” she told journalists connected to the virtual training.
Mrs Okoh said while the pandemic continues to get the media attention, TB, being a worse killer disease, should also be given 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.
A health official, Jumoke Adebari, said TB and COVID-19 share similar features and means of transmission.
“While COVID-19 is an instant killer, TB kills slowly, even though both have an equal capacity of spreading through coughing,” she said.
Nigeria ranks seventh among 30 high TB burden countries and second in Africa.