New Telegraph

Ebonyi Govt, Caritas Foundation Partner in Tackling Tuberculosis

…Recorded 2,711 Cases Last Year

Background

Tuberculosis (otherwise known as TB) is a serious chronic and contagious disease that mainly affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. In some places, especially where TB is relatively common, persons may have the bacteria but the germs will lie dormant. Where TB germs are in the body, but are not causing sickness, it is called TB infection /latent TB or latent TB infection. Under some circumstances, the dormant bacteria may begin to multiply excessively, invade the surrounding tissues and organs and begin to cause sickness, which manifest as coughing, and weight loss, among others When TB begins to cause sickness, an individual is said to have TB disease or active TB.

It means that the person can be infected with the germ causing TB without having the disease, but the person may later become sick with the disease. A person with Pulmonary TB usually coughs for two or more weeks. Cough of any duration in person living with HIV is regarded as pre-sumptive TB. There may be blood in the cough, the person may lose weight, have fever and sweat unusually in the night. Some factors increase the spread of TB germs. This include over-crowding, poor ventilation, poor cough hygiene, prison, nurs- ing homes. Tuberculosis kills 18 people every one hour in Nigeria Nigeria comes third behind only India and China in terms of tuberculosis (TB) cases. Every year, around 245,000 Nigerians die from TB and about 590,000 new cases occur (of these, around 140,000 are also HIV-positive). TB accounts for more than 10 per cent of all deaths in Nigeria.

For those who may not be aware, TB is an infectious dis- ease and it is endemic in Nigeria. It’s a potentially serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs. The bacteria that cause TB are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The bacteria is therefore airborne and spreads through respiratory droplets, coughs or sneezes. TB requires a medical diag- nosis before it can be detected and consequently diagnosed. Most people infected with the bacteria that cause TB don’t have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they usually include a cough (sometimes blood-tinged), weight loss, night sweats and fever. The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) has said that TB kills not less than 18 Nigerians in every 60 minutes while about 47 people are newly diagnosed every hour.

The regression analysis showed that TB case notification rate was significantly higher in states with low GDP per capita rates, high HIV prevalence rates, low BCG coverage rates, and in states with low TB death rates during treatment. However, TB is preventable and treatable but remains the world’s deadliest infectious- disease killer. Having infectious TB disease means that you can spread TB germs to others. In the last several years the United States has reported the lowest number of TB cases on record, but too many people still suffer from TB worldwide

As Govt, Caritas Foundation partner

The scourge of Tuberculosis is said to be prevalent in the country but with varied degrees of manifestations in the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. For many, the case of Ebonyi is quite peculiar, as the state is noted as one of the states with high prevalent of TB. This point is lend credence to when you look at the figures infection recorded in the state in 2023, which was put at 2,711. Aware of the need to contin- uously battle this scourge and eliminate completely from the state, the state government has recently embarked on a collab- orative campaign with Caritas Foundation against this infectious disease. Caritas Foundation is an In- ternational Non-Governmental Organization /NGO, sponsored by Global Fund, contributing immensely in combating the menace of Tuberculosis. Part of this effort is to jointly re-packaged strategies in tackling the scourge of tuberculosis.

This is as recognition of the global tragic toll of Tuberculosis, which has been on the rise. This situation has therefore, necessitated support among healthcare providers, policy makers and donors for Tuberculosis. Recently, the Programme Manager, TB Programme, Eb- onyi State, Mr Samuel Nwite, disclosed that a total of 2,711 cases of TB were notified in the state between January and December 2023. He said that the cases were notified across the 13 local gov- ernment areas of the state. Ac- cording to him, ‘‘From January to March, 540 cases, April to June 618, July to September 739 cases, and October to December 814 cases respectively. He said that the number of notified cases from January 2023 till date has increased drastically. Nwite added that activities of TB programme in Ebonyi State were going on in the rural communities. ‘‘Because of that those case filing in the communities are the ones we booked,’’ he disclosed.

Measures to fight the scourge

Speaking against the backdrop of measures put in place to curb the scourge of tuberculosis in the state, the Project Manager disclosed that 18 coordinators have been engaged in each of the 13 LGAs. According to him, ‘‘the National Programme on Tuberculosis gives every state target, we are working to achieve our target, we have TB Supervisors, all of them working assiduously to ensure that Tuberculosis is eradicated in the state.’’ On the efforts of state government in the fight against TB, Nwite commended the govern- ment for creating an enabling environment for the implementation of TB programmes in the state. ‘‘The government is the one paying the staff, and crating the enabling environment for the NGOs and other partners to function,’’ he said, adding, ‘’good working relations matters alot in everything we are doing.’’

Challanges

Nwite also noted that though the programme in the state were confronted by many challenges, efforts are in top gear to address them. ‘‘Definitely, we have challenges, the public facilities are not reporting to us, most of the cases are coming from private facilities,’’ he revealed. Furthermore, ‘‘we need the Global Fund to support what we are doing in Ebonyi State,’’ he said.

World Health Organisation

In his reaction, the World Health Otganisation (WHO) Programme Officer on Tuber- culosis in the state, Dr Joseph Iruka, confirmed the report by the state Promgramme Manager, on notified figures recorded last year, insisting that the affected persons tested positive to Tuberculosis infection (TB) within the last one year, spanning January 2023 till date. The WHO Programme Officer said that the affected persons have been enrolled and are currently receiving medication at designated health facilities across the state. Iruka further explained that the suspected cases were discovered across the 13 LGAs of the state. He reiterated that the basic role of the World Health Organisation as Governing Body for Health in Ebonyi State, was to search for cases of Tuberculosis and other diseases in rural areas and provide support for affected members of such communities.

‘‘They were all enrolled, this cuts across the 13 local government areas of the state,” he said of the fate of the notified cases. Adding, “they are now on medication, apart from one or two that defaulted and stopped coming for treatment, I think the TB Team in the state are doing a very good job. ‘‘Ours is just to support the best way we can to ensure that tuberculosis is reduced in the State.” He enjoined the people of the state to desist from stigmatising people with the ailment, stressing that the disease could be contacted through air droplets and not hereditary.

Governor’s reaction

When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Francis Nwifuru on Health, Dr Sabinus Nwibo, re-echoed that WHO was a special partner in the health sector. Nwibo said that he does not have the exact figure of persons affected by the ailment and needed to consult other Development Partners and Federal Health Institutions, namely; Alex-Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki and Mile Four Hospital that enroll Tuberculosis patients.

Patients speak

In an interview, a TB patient at Mile Four Hospital, Abaka- liki, Mrs Okorie Anoke, from Ohaozara Local Government Area of the state, said that she had lung infection and persistent cough for three weeks. I had symptoms of fever and cheat pain, and hemoptysis, coughing out blood,’’ she disclosed. Adding, ‘‘after being subjected to test, I was confirmed TB positive, having contained micro-organism, we are isolated at the hospital.’’ While a member of the health- care providers at Mile Four Hospital, Abakaliki, Mr Reuben Ebuka, stated that Tuberculosis treatment were free. ‘‘Investigation and chest x-ray are free, patients take the drugs for six months, if it is extra-pulmonary involving bone and brain, treat- ment takes 12 months,’’ he said.

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