…List challenges confronting sufferers
…Access to TB diagnostic services huge challenge – Health Minister
Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
My name is Kelechi Nwakobia, from Imo State. I contracted a form of tuberculosis (TB) which was resistant to many different drugs known as multidrug resistant TB, or MDR-TB.
‘’It all started about eight months ago. I was coughing a lot but I thought it was a simple case of flu. When I went to the hospital I was given antibiotics and syrup for the cough but after two weeks I had to go back because there was no improvement.
I was sent to a clinic where my sputum was tested for tuberculosis (TB) and shortly after, doctors confirmed that I had TB.
‘’I believe that I contracted the disease where I was working as an office assistant. I immediately started the TB treatment but after two months I developed side effects from the medication, such as severe weakness and a yellow tinge to the whites of the eyes.
I was then sent to another clinic, where I was diagnosed with MDR-TB and placed on a different treatment.
This is the story of Nwakobia who survived the disease after treatment.
Another survivor, Mrs. Temitope Adams, who also narrated her story, said: “It all started like a normal cough. ‘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 I was sent home, but after a week I returned to the hospital because I was not getting any better.
‘’Finally doctors sent me for an X-ray and shortly after they told me I had TB. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand how I had been infected and I told them that I didn’t drink or smoke.
They explained to me that TB is airborne and it can affect any one of us, anywhere, and that I had to go for treatment.
‘’I was scared when I found out that TB treatment usually lasts six months because it felt like a very long time. When I started the medication, I vomited every time I swallowed a pill because I was taking them on an empty stomach. I had no appetite.
By the time I completed my TB treatment and was fully recovered, I decided to become a volunteer’’, she said.
On her part, Oluwafunke Dosumu, a mother and health educator, started coughing on the morning of February 28, 2015.
Like everyone would reason, she thought it was just ‘an ordinary, minor cough’ and was treating it as such.
However, the cough persisted prompting a visit to the hospital which she thought would just be a quick one.
She however said that what she expected to be a quick dash to the hospital turned into a long wait. She was asked to run series of medical laboratory investigations which dragged for a while.
Dosumu, who spoke at the Tuberculosis Gala night which was hosted by the First Lady, Aisha Buhari at the Presidential Villa, said when the results of the tests were out she felt the worst as she was told by the doctors that she had Tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis popularly referred to as TB is an infectious disease usually caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria.
The disease affects the lungs, although it can also affect other parts of the body.
While most of the MTB bacteria infections do not have symptoms in its latent state, the infection can present symptoms such as bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum (mucus from deep inside the lungs), drastic loss of weight among many others.
An estimated 418,000 new TB cases occurred in Nigeria in 2018 while 106,533 cases (25%) of TB were notified in 2018, leaving a gap of 314,712 and 319,599 cases that are yet to be notified respectively.
According to Dosumu, at first, she was scared but later summoned the courage to go through every bit of the treatment process.
She said she was positive that she will come out of the process healthy despite having lost so much weight due to loss of appetite, night sweats and chest pain which had lasted for about six months.
Dosumu also said that immediately she was diagnosed with TB, she was isolated from her immediate environment, including her family and children.
“I am a mother, a health educator, I survived tuberculosis (TB) in 2015,” Dosumu said.
“It all started on 28 February 2015. I started coughing and assumed it was a minor cough and was treating is as such. After two weeks of minor treatments, the cough persisted, so I visited the hospital for check-ups. Immediately I was told to run some tests and when I got the results, I was told it is TB, a disease that affects the lungs.
“At first I was scared and shocked that I had TB, but later I summoned the courage to go through every bit of the process, positive that I will definitely come out of it. I was placed on anti-TB drugs, which I had to take every day for six months.
“During the process, I lost so much weight due to loss of appetite; night sweats as well as fever and chest pain.
I was also isolated from my immediate environment, family and children for some months to face my health squarely and prevent the disease from spreading,” Dosumu added.
While their experience has turned them to TB champions and advocates working with communities to prevent stigmatisation of TB patients, these survivors called on the Federal Government to strengthen collaboration with partners to end the spread of the disease in Nigeria.
Also speaking, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole expressed concern over the rising cases of TB in Nigeria.
Adewole, who was represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Abdullahi Mashi, said Nigeria’s TB treatment coverage for 2018 with an estimated 418, 000 new cases, had only 106,533 cases reported in 2018 leaving over 300,000 cases undiagnosed.
The minister said that the current proportion of health facilities in the country with TB services is barely 265.
“Access to TB diagnostic services is a huge challenge. The current local government areas coverage of Gene Xpert, which is the first-line test for diagnosis of TB, is 41 per cent.
“Another worrisome trend is funding. The catastrophic cost survey conducted in 2017 showed that 71 per cent of TB patients and their households are affected negatively by the catastrophic cost due to TB,” Adewole said.
Furthermore, the First Lady in her speech solicited for private sector and media partnership in the fight to end tuberculosis in Nigeria.
Mrs. Buhari said instead of buying treated mosquito nets to fight malaria, Nigeria should go for a permanent solution that would help to completely eradicate mosquitoes in the country.
She said TB has become a major challenge globally and a killer disease, adding that it should be integrated in the fight against HIV/AIDS to reduce the deaths associated with the disease.
Prof Lovett Lawson, Board Chair, Stop TB partnership Nigeria who also spoke at the event expressed worry that despite the significant progress made over the years, about 75 per cent of Nigerians with Tuberculosis (TB) are yet to be diagnosed or receive any form of treatment.
He added that Stop TB partnership will not relent in its efforts to partner Federal Government and other relevant agencies to combat TB scourge in Nigeria.