The Scourge of Tuberculosis

Nigerians are worried over the increasing rate of tuberculosis disease, especially now that the World Health Organisation, WHO, ranks Nigeria as the fourth country in the world with the highest number of cases

By Augustine Adah  |  Nov. 19, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

ABDULRAHAM Yusuf, 35, thought he had contacted cold and catarrh when he started coughing in June. When the cough persisted, he was advised by friends and family members to go for a medical test at Holley Memorial Hospital, Ochadamu, Kogi State.  Yusuf was shocked when the result of the lab0ratory test showed that he was infected with tuberculosis bacteria. Since then he is still battling to treat the ailment.

Like Yusuf, Zainab Buhari (real name withheld), has been fighting tuberculosis which she contacted in 2008.  The quest for the cure took Buhari, to 44 Military Hospital, Kaduna, where she spent eight months without being cured. She had to go to a neighbouring African country where she was treated for another eight months before she started to recover. She is still recuperating even though she had to resign her position in the Nigerian Police Force because of the disease.

Yusuf and Buhari represent the more than 200,000 Nigerians suffering from Tuberculosis annually. The World Health Organisation, WHO, described TB and Human Immune Virus, HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS, as deadly co-epidemic in many regions of the world. The world body rated Nigeria as the fourth country in the world with TB cases of 536 per 100,000 persons.

Kogi is one of the states in the country that has the highest sufferers of tuberculosis. As at September this year, the state had recorded more than 1000 cases of the disease as against 800 recorded at the same period in 2010.  States like Lagos, Oyo, Kano and Nasarawa recorded 6.5 percent prevalence rate of the disease.

Although Joshua Giyan, former acting medical director, Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, Nasarawa State, in 2010, could not provide figures, he said that the state had one of the highest number of TB patients with many of them visiting the centre. The prevalence of tuberculosis infections in Nigeria has given both the federal and state governments and health workers serious concern. Even though the national programme for the eradication of TB was launched in 1991, it was not until 10 years after that the observed treatment strategy was initiated, while implementation started in some selected states. The federal government also has designated centres across the 36 states of the federation where tuberculosis drugs can be administered to patients free. The federal government in collaboration with Centre for Disease Control of the United States, some years ago, established a TB/HIV/AIDS reference laboratory centre in Zaria, Kaduna State. The centre was reputed to be one of the best in Africa.

In Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, the state governor, recently released the sum of N15 million towards the control of the disease in the state. Muyiwa Gbadegesin, commissioner for health, described tuberculosis as one of the greatest killers, and that the state government was more committed towards its control and eradication.

The increase in the infection of the disease has also compelled the Kogi State government to approve N18 million for the state ministry of health towards the treatment and control of the disease. Idris Omede, Kogi State commissioner for health, said the government was committed to the control and cure of tuberculosis through the Tuberculosis and Leprosy Unit of its ministry of health. The former Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, president identified poverty, beliefs, and ignorance as some of the challenges facing the government in combating TB and delivering other health services in the state.

Ayo Olayemi, a medical doctor and coordinator of Tuberculosis and Leprosy unit, Kogi State ministry of health, commended the effort of the state government in approving the money, urging that funds be released on time to the ministry for treatment of those already infected with the disease and to also check its spread.

Some of the hospitals where patients could obtain drugs for the treatment of the disease in the state are Kogi State Specialist Hospital, Lokoja, Holley Memorial Hospital, Ochadamu, and Missionary Hospital in Ika, Ankpa local government area. The Holley Memorial, is a hospital established by the United Evangelical Church, UEC, it has received support from the state government recently to fight TB and leprosy. According to government officials, the treatment period of TB would soon be reduced to six months instead of the present eight months because of some improvement in the new drugs.

TB is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lung and can also harm any part of the body especially the kidney, spine and the brain. Some of the symptoms of the disease include a bad cough that lasts for three weeks or more, pain in the chest, weakness or fatigue, weight loss and lack of appetite. TB is spread from one person to another when the person with the disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. People staying close to the person may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. Sometimes, the TB bacteria can live in the body without making the victim sick. This happens when the body immune system is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.

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