Dr Ugochukwu Chukwulobelu, Programme Manager of Anambra State Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Management, has disclosed that Anambra State has the highest burden of childhood tuberculosis (TB) contribution in Nigeria. He made this known at the ongoing stakeholders’ engagement organized by the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation and Breakthrough Action Nigeria in Awka, Anambra State.
Chukwulobelu stated that TB is an airborne disease caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis which attacks the lungs and can also damage other parts of the body. He further explained that it spreads through the air when a person with tuberculosis of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, or talks.
According to statistics on TB burden, Nigeria ranks number six in the world and number one in Africa. Anambra State has the highest burden of TB drug resistance cases and childhood TB contribution in the southeast and Nigeria, which is not a good thing for the state.
To reduce the high burden of TB, the state government, in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) and other partners, set up 14 laboratories with gene Xpert machines for diagnoses. However, the major problem is the lack of awareness among residents about TB, the diagnosis, and treatment.
Chukwulobelu urged the media to intensify reportage on the burden and symptoms of TB as well as how and where patients could get medical help. He added that persistent cough for two weeks or more, fever, unexplainable weight loss, and drenching night sweats are signs used to screen patients, and residents should report suspected cases of TB within their communities.
Dr Chijioke Oke of KNCV-Nigeria identified low childhood TB awareness, stigma, low funding for childhood TB, and low index for suspicion for childhood TB by healthcare providers as some of the challenges with the control of the disease in the state. He also revealed that children’s stool was required to test children for TB because they did not know how to spit out sputum after coughing, as they rather swallow it.
“Our major challenge with Childhood TB control in the state is that parent are scared and they do not allow doctors to take their children’s stool for a test. Some of them said we want to use their children’s stool for ‘juju.’ It shows the level of ignorance and lack of awareness among residents,” he said.
The high burden of childhood TB in Anambra State calls for urgent action to raise awareness about the disease and improve access to diagnosis and treatment.