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COVID-19 has weakened anti-TB fight, says NTBLCP

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• Calls for increased case detection, treatment
The Coordinator, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected all efforts to tame tuberculosis in Nigeria.

New data released by Stop TB Partnership show that global treatment and diagnosis of TB cases witnessed a drastic decline in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic which has infected over 100 million people worldwide.

Speaking during a virtual press conference heralding the 2021 World Tuberculosis Day, Anyaike, who noted that Nigeria ranks 1st in Africa and 6th globally on the burden of TB, called for concerted efforts to end the scourge in the country by 2022.

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He described TB as the deadliest infectious disease that cuts across all strata of life but common in those with reduced immunity, poor nutrition and terminal diseases.

Anyaike called for increased case detection and treatment at community level if the country is to eliminate the disease.

“Since we are dealing with a highly infectious but treatable disease, we have to focus on detecting these cases and then caring for the affected ones to prevent the spread. Every March 24, World Tuberculosis Day is celebrated to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. Detection of new cases and placing them on care should be our major focus points,” he advised.

The coordinator, who disclosed that Nigeria detected 138,000 cases in 2020 regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the country could do much better with all hands on deck.

He expressed regret that stigma and discrimination associated with the disease make infected people to run away from the treatment that they need.

“Ending the stigma and discrimination attached to TB will help to improve the reactions of those affected to treatment. They will allow themselves to be detected,” he said.

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