The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Program urged the media to help educate the public on the causes, prevention and treatment of tuberculosis (TB).
The program director, Ms Itohowo Uko, made the request to Umuahia on Wednesday during a virtual seminar organized for journalists in Abia and Enugu.
She said tuberculosis kills more people than the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, adding that the media had a lot of roles to play in reducing it.
She said more than 18 people die of tuberculosis per hour in Nigeria, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Quoting the report, she also said 157,000 people died of tuberculosis in Nigeria in 2019.
Uko said the inability of tuberculosis patients to access medicine during the coronavirus lockdown has worsened the spread of the disease in the country.
She identified the symptoms of tuberculosis as fever, weight loss and a prolonged cough.
Uko said tuberculosis was curable contrary to misinformation, urging people with persistent cough that lasted for two weeks to get tested.
She said that with early diagnosis, tuberculosis could be cured within six months, adding that its treatment was free at designated hospitals across the country.
She urged TB patients, however, to make an effort to complete the six-month treatment cycle to avoid her relapse.
According to her, some patients usually stopped taking medication after two weeks of treatment, which gave them temporary relief.
She rejected the idea that tuberculosis could be contracted by sharing plates, cups, cutlery or thrown by witchcraft.
“Diseases are only transmitted by air,” she said.
A resource person for the event, Mr. Eze Eze, said it was important for reporters to focus more on stories from the human angle, while reporting on TB.
Eze said the media is an important force in helping people make informed decisions about their health.
Another resource person, Dr Charles Ugwuanyi, said the coronavirus pandemic epidemic has made the plight of TB patients worse because they cannot access treatment during the lockdown.
He explained that the tuberculosis and coronavirus pandemic shared similar symptoms, but advised patients to make an early diagnosis in order to establish their particular case.
Ugwuanyi, however, said that while the coronavirus is associated with dry cough, the cough from tuberculosis produces sputum.
He cautioned against the stigma of TB patients, regretting that there is a significant reduction in the number of cough sufferers seeking treatment for TB for fear of being considered coronavirus patients.
In a remark, Dr Okorie Onuka, Abia’s TB Focal Person, reiterated the importance of media support for the fight against TB, saying it is curable.
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