According to the Programme Manager for Anambra State Tuberculosis (TB), Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Management, Dr Ugochukwu Chukwulobelu, Anambra State currently has the highest burden of Childhood Tuberculosis in Nigeria.
Dr Chukwulobelu made this known during the Federal Ministry of Health’s stakeholder engagement in partnership with the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation and Breakthrough Action Nigeria, in Awka.
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Dr Chukwulobelu described Tuberculosis as a disease caused by a bacteria known as “Mycobacterium tuberculosis”, which typically attacks the lungs and can damage other parts of the body as well. He explained that TB is spread through the air when a person with tuberculosis of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes or talks.
Dr Chukwulobelu further revealed that Nigeria is ranked number six globally and number one in Africa, in terms of TB burden, with every local government area having TB cases. Anambra State is currently faced with the highest burden of TB drug-resistant cases and Childhood TB contribution in the South-East and Nigeria, which is not a positive development for the state.
To address the high burden of TB, the state government, in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme and other partners, has set up 14 laboratories with gene Xpert machines for diagnosis. There are also about 800 Directly Observed Treatment Centres for TB, but the major problem is the lack of awareness among residents about TB, its diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Chukwulobelu emphasized the need for increased reportage on the burden and symptoms of the disease, as well as information on where patients can get medical help. He also urged residents to report suspected cases of TB within their communities.
Dr Chijioke Oke of KNCV-Nigeria also noted that children living with adults who have TB, children who are HIV positive, and malnourished children are at risk of getting TB.
He identified low childhood TB awareness, stigma, low funding for childhood TB, and low index suspicion for childhood TB by healthcare providers, as some of the challenges with the control of the disease in the state.
Dr Oke also revealed that children’s stool was required to test children for TB because they do not know how to spit out sputum after coughing, but rather swallow it. He added that some parents are scared and do not allow doctors to take their children’s stool for tests, and that this was indicative of the level of ignorance and lack of awareness among residents.