Uko Itohowo, the Director, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, says COVID-19 has worsened Tuberculosis cases in Nigeria as about 60 per cent of patients go unnoticed and untreated.
Itohowo said this on Monday in a virtual media seminar with newsmen in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
She said according to the 2020 World Health Organisation report, Nigeria is ranked first in leading cases of TB in Africa and sixth in the world.
She said currently, TB kills 18 Nigerians every hour, with a record number of 47 Nigerians developing active TB every hour, seven of which are children.
Itohowo observed that all attention were being placed on COVID-19 to the detriment of TB, which is equally a deadly disease.
She said although TB is a deadly disease, with proper treatment it could be cured.
She said: “The inability of tuberculosis patients to access medication during the COVID-19 lockdown worsened the spread of tuberculosis in Nigeria.
“Thus, about 150,000 persons died of tuberculosis in Nigeria in 2019 alone according to a World Health Organisation report.”
Itohowo listed symptoms of tuberculosis to include fever, loss of weight and protracted cough.
She said, however, that contrary to misinformation, tuberculosis is curable, and urged people with persistent cough that has lasted for two weeks to go for a test.
She said with early diagnosis, TB could be cured within six months, adding that treatment of tuberculosis is free at designated hospitals in the country.
She explained: “TB is not spread through shaking someone’s hand, sharing food, touching bed linens or toilet seats or sharing toothbrushes.
“TB is also not contracted through witchcraft, but airborne.”
Itohowo therefore appealed to media practitioners to assist in sensitising the public about the causes, prevention and treatment of the disease.