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Experts warn Nigerians to shun practices that aid tuberculosis | The Guardian Nigeria News

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As Nigeria continues to face economic downturn, health experts have called on Nigerians to engage in practices that will reduce the spread of tuberculosis in the country.

Only recently, Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare noted that 495,000 Nigerians are currently living with tuberculosis (TB). While describing the ailment as a serious infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs, it said TB can also affect other parts of the body such as the kidneys, spinal cord and brain.

Caused by the bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis, it spreads primarily through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, thereby, releasing tiny droplets containing the bacteria into the air.

Other preventive measures include, proper ventilation in indoor spaces, wearing face masks, and practising good respiratory hygiene, such as covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing.

The ministry said the disease could be prevented through different approaches such as vaccination. The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine is widely used to protect against severe forms of TB, particularly, in children.

Director of Public Health Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, said government is determined to end the menace of tuberculosis through a five-year strategic plan that provides the national road map, put up robust national diagnostic laboratories for early diagnosis and prompt initiation of treatment to cut the chain of transmission of the TB infection.

He said the ministry has above 500 GeneXpert machines and other diagnostic plates that help in the diagnosis of TB. He stated that government is working with partners to provide free treatment and diagnosis of tuberculosis across the country.

Anyaike noted the ministry strives to ensure robust awareness creation using all media. “This will greatly improve against stigma and discrimination.” He said the government is working towards providing increased domestic funding for TB intervention for benefit of all Nigerians both young and old. “We do this through effective and efficient collaboration with partners, the government was able to notify above 70 per cent of the estimated TB cases in Nigeria at the end of 2023.”

He said TB is preventable, curable and not caused by witchcraft, as often believed by some people. “TB diagnoses and treatment are free, therefore, make yourself available by visiting the nearest hospital.”

A public health physician, Dr. Reinnet Awoh, also said in terms of tuberculosis prevention, early diagnosis and treatment are keys. According to him, “early identification and treatment of TB cases are essential to prevent further disease transmission within communities.”

In preventive measures, he said people should maintain healthy lifestyle, eat balanced diet, observe regular physical exercise, and adequate rest to boost the immune system and reduce the risk of developing active TB disease.

In terms of possible treatment for TB, he said tuberculosis is treatable and curable with appropriate medication. Treatment typically involves a combination of antibiotics taken over several months, six to nine months.

He said the most commonly used drugs for TB treatment are isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. “Patients must complete the full course of treatment as prescribed by their healthcare provider to ensure a successful recovery and reduce the risk of developing resistance to the drug.”

On signs and symptoms of tuberculosis, he said these could vary depending on the part of the body affected. “In pulmonary TB, which affects the lungs, common symptoms include persistent coughing for two or more weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or sputum, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.”

For extrapulmonary TB, he said this affects other organs, symptoms may include back pain, joint pain, abdominal pain, and neurological symptoms, headache and seizures.

He said it is very important for anyone having any or combination of these symptoms to seek medical attention immediately as early detection and treatment increases treatment outcomes.

He said government could do more by implementing public health strategies and policies aimed at reducing the burden of TB in communities; across the country. “This includes increasing public awareness about TB through education campaigns, providing access to affordable healthcare services for early diagnosis and treatment, ensuring the availability of TB testing and treatment facilities, promoting research for new treatments and vaccines,” Awoh said.

According to him, government needs to address social determinants of health that contribute to the spread of TB, such as poverty, overcrowding, and lack of access to healthcare. He said: “I will advice individuals diagnosed with TB: It is essential to adhere strictly to the prescribed treatment regimen, attend regular medical appointments for monitoring and follow-up, and practice good respiratory hygiene to prevent the spread of TB to others.”

A consultant public health physician at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Lagos, Dr. Adeleke Kayode, said malnutrition could also cause tuberculosis especially in children and the elderly people.

He said people should avoid close contact with persons with chronic cough or TB, eat well such as eating balanced diet, visit hospital when you are having cough for two weeks or more.

He said signs and symptoms of TB include fever, weight loss, drenching night sweat, difficult in breathing, chest pain among others therefore people should visit hospital when the signs developed.

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