Lessons from COVID-19 will benefit fight against TB – NCDC

March 23, 2021
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Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu PHOTO: Twitter

Ahead of world tuberculosis day, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), said it hoped that lessons from the management of coronavirus would be valuable in treating long-neglected respiratory diseases like tuberculosis,(TB).

The NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Tuesday in Abuja.

NAN reports that World Tuberculosis Day, celebrated every March 24th, seeks to create awareness about the devastating health and economic impact of tuberculosis.

It also aims to accelerate efforts to end the global TB epidemic.

The theme for 2021 is “clock is ticking to end tuberculosis in Nigeria,” with the slogan, “That coughing fit be Tuberculosis, not COVID, check am oh.”

Ihekweazu said the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the detection, diagnosis and response to other infectious diseases.

“For long-neglected respiratory diseases like TB it provides a real opportunity for change,” he explained.

Ihekweazu added that COVID-19 had proven that tools and solutions could be found when there were investment and collaboration.

The NCDC boss stated that through implementing strategies, programmes and innovation, the NCDC in collaboration with the ministry of health would ensure that TB continued to be a high priority.

He noted that COVID-19 was having a devastating impact on the fight against TB, adding that many of the resources to fight TB – labs, testing machines, health workers – had been diverted to fight COVID-19.

He stressed that it was important that Nigerians continued to focus on the prevention, early detection and response to other infectious diseases including Tuberculosis.

“We have been working very closely with the National TB Programme and other stakeholders to strengthen TB surveillance in Nigeria,” he said.

When asked about the similarities between COVID-19 and TB, Ihekweazu explained that both could cause respiratory symptoms, cough and shortness of breath.

“Both can cause fever and weakness. COVID-19 is acute in nature and an index case infects about five contacts within a short time while an index case of TB infects about 15 people per year.

“TB symptoms do not occur immediately after infection and when they develop, they are gradual at the onset, often over a period of weeks or longer, while in COVID-19, symptoms can occur within a few days,” he explained.

According to Ihekweazu, wearing a mask presents a barrier for the spread of both TB and COVID-19 as masks stop the organisms from being distributed into the air or infecting surfaces with respiratory droplets if worn by someone who has symptoms.

He noted that a mask could also reduce the chances of the wearer inhaling the bacteria or virus, as well as touching the mouth or nose with hands that have touched objects infected with respiratory droplets.

“For TB, there is an effective treatment available and once a person is on the right treatment the risk of infecting others rapidly decreases and there is often no need to wear a mask for many weeks.

“For COVID-19, that is why the NCDC mandates the use of non-medical masks in the general population and prioritises the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, medical masks, face shield, gowns, respirators, for health care providers,” Ihekweazu said.

NAN also reports that every year TB infects 10 million and kills 1.5 million people worldwide, more than any other infectious disease.

Although COVID-19 overtook TB in 2020 as the most common cause of death from an infectious disease, TB still kills more people than COVID-19 in low and middle-income countries.

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