TB: Stepping Up The Reach


Humanity paused last Monday to mark
the World Tuberculosis Day. The United Nations (UN) had declared March 24 of every year as World TB Day to arouse global consciousness on tuberculosis and the efforts made to prevent and treat the disease.
The theme for this year’s campaign is: “Reaching The Three Million.” But to bring the message closer home, a sub-theme was developed for Nigeria – “Tuberculosis-free Nigeria: Find, Treat, Cure TB.”
Tuberculosis or TB, is an infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which commonly affects the lungs. It is transmitted via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the disease.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, says tuberculosis is the world’s second most deadly infectious diseases among adults, after HIV/AIDS. The UN says the disease flourishes in refugee camps, rural settlements and poor sanitary habitations, mostly in Africa. Although, curable, the access to help in this regard has been a problem that humanity needs to address urgently, he said.
Ki-moon said that every year, TB kills about 1.3 million people and causes nearly nine million others to fall ill. The tragedy, he lamented, is that TB is curable, yet one third of the nine million who suffer it do not get the treatment they need. “Most are poor. Many are from marginalised populations such as migrant workers, refugees and internally displaced persons, prisoners, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities,” the UN chief scribe said.
In Nigeria, statistics on the prevalent rate is disturbing. According to the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan, Nigeria ranks 11th out of 22 high-burden countries that account for 80 per cent of global TB cases. Also, the World Health Organisation reports that 18,000 TB cases occur annually in Nigeria.
The Tide is dismayed at the lack of adequate and sustained enlightenment on the disease locally. People will need to know the symptoms, where to go for testing and treatment, and how to protect the un-infected. But ignorance of the people has tended to drive the spread and hampered the treatment and control of the disease.
Meanwhile, there is an international collaboration in form of specialist facilities (i.e. chest clinics) and free treatment that should have arrested the spread of the disease. But the rising cases of mass poverty, conflicts that create refugee camps and fake medicines have not helped matters.
As it is, a robust partnership with the media has become imperative to inform the population about TB. People, community groups and government agencies may also need to work with broadcast, print, and online media to promote stories on the awareness of tuberculosis.
We underscore the advice of Ban Ki-moon that TB patients should have access to the services they need for rapid diagnosis, treatment and cure, because of the rapidly emerging problem of patients with deadly, extensively drug-resistant TB going undetected.
The Tide also welcomes the Rivers State Government’s renewed call on TB patients to make use of government hospitals and medical centres in their areas for treatment. According to the state Health Commissioner, Dr. Sampson Parker government had provided drugs and facilities for the treatment of the disease in hospitals and health centres across the state.
Tuberculosis is one disease that must not be allowed to spread. Apart from its relationship with HIV/AIDS,TB is a silent killer which symptoms are often misinterpreted. All well-meaning persons must support the government and bring TB under control in Nigeria.
Similarly, offices and schools where people from diverse background come together should be given periodic lectures and testing for TB with a view to preventing it and ensuring early detection that will make the management of the ailment much easier.