Survivor Calls For Improved Diagnosis As FG Unveils TB Compedium

L-R: Tuberculosis Survivor, Joyce Agerl shares her story as Director, Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Adebimpe Adebiyi, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora watches on at the TB Compedium Launch in Abuja on Thursday, June 2, 2022.

Spurred by its desire to achieve a Tuberculosis (TB) free world, the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) has launched a Compedium Of Best Practices For Tuberculosis Control, to be used in the fight against the disease.

The document which contains strategic intervention and measures that enabled the country achieve consistent increase in TB case notification for the past 3 years, was launched in Abuja on Wednesday, June 2, 2022.

Delivering his keynote address at the unveiling ceremony, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire noted that the document contained the history of Tuberculosis control in Nigeria. He said in it, Nigeria was showcasing best practices that had enabled the steady and marked increase in tuberculosis notification in the country over the past few years.

Therefore, other disease control programmes and indeed other countries, could learn and leverage on experiences captured in the document, to support their disease control efforts.

Recalling the setback posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to TB control in Nigeria, Ehanire said: “At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there was an 18% drop globally in the number of TB cases diagnosed and notified; from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020.

“In the same period, TB deaths increased significantly as a result of reduced attention to treating TB patients. Nigeria, as with many other countries, suffered the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with negative socio-economic trends and health service disruptions.

“Following the introduction of lockdown measures for pandemic control in the second quarter of 2020, TB testing reduced by about 30%, resulting in 17% reduction in TB case finding and notification”, he said.

The game changer, he noted, was the integration of TB control into COVID-19 response measures, which eventually led to a 15% increase in TB notification from 120,266 cases in 2019 to 138,591 in 2020.

“This made Nigeria one of the few countries in the world to record an increase in TB case notification during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

“Further to this, the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) again recorded a remarkable increase in 2021 annual TB notification, when numbers increased by 50%, from 138,591 in 2020 to 207,785 in 2021”, the Health Czar said.

Ehanire, however said the fight against TB was far from being won as there were still over 200,000 new TB infections occurring every year in Nigeria, yet to be detected and enrolled in treatment.

He also said there were significant numbers of TB deaths recorded in the country annually. Therefore, there was the need to step up commitments and invest strategically across the nation, to scale up best practices.

Also speaking, Tuberculosis survivor, Joyce Agerl stressed on the need for improved diagnosis and early detection of the disease. Recounting her near death experience, she narrated how it took over a year before doctors were able to diagnose that she had Latent TB infection:

“I think we even have more of the problem of diagnosis. Because at any stage of the hospital, no doctor was ready to really think outside the box, I was consistently coming back to treat malaria fever.

She also explained that she was being diagnosed of ulcer and was constantly on antibiotics until she started having difficulty in breathing and bleeding through the nose.

“My chest was hurting, I was coughing a lot and I had no appetite, so I went to the hospital where I had a sputum test. I was given medicines and was sent home, but after a week I returned to the hospital because I was not getting any better.

“Finally during the heat of COVID-19, doctors sent me for an X-ray and shortly after they told me I had TB”, Joyce said.

She attributed the prevalence of the disease to incorrect diagnosis and inability of patients to complete treatment.

Deputy Chief of Party for USAID Funded TB Country Project, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Mrs Ayodele Iroko however expressed optimism that, with the Compedium and the recruitment of more hands, the challenges faced by Tuberculosis control in Nigeria would be a thing of the past.

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