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FG declares state-of-emergency on childhood TB

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THE Federal Government has declared the State of Emergency on childhood tuberculosis in the country.

  The Coordinator, National Tuberculosis, Buruli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Dr Chukwuma Anyaike announced this in Abuja at the bi-weekly meeting of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in the country

  Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease that is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that often

affect the lungs.

  The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.

  According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Nigeria has recorded a 50 per cent increase in TB notification from 138,591 TB casesin 2020 to 207,785 TB cases in 2021.

  “Also, about six per cent of all forms of notified TB cases in 2021 were children less than 15 years. TB is an important infectious disease of public health concern.

  “The effects of TB on children in terms of morbidity and mortality are more than that of adults and the ugly development may not be unconnected with the differences in characteristics and peculiarities of the disease in children.”

 The world body added that “Tuberculosis in children is usually primary, paucibacillary, characterised by difficulties in diagnosis of both drug susceptible and resistant TB.

 “This is associated with poor uptake of preventive therapy for those with latent infection, contacts and people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA), in most developing countries like Nigeria.”

  The NTBLCP coordinator, therefore, said that the management of TB in children was characterised by difficulties due to both peculiarities of children and the disease.

  He added that “with detailed clinical assessment and examination of necessary specimen, in addition to strict adherence to the guidelines of the national TB control programme, more cases of TB in children can be prevented, diagnosed, treated and reported.”

Chukwuma said that these disturbing statistics called for a change in narrative of the country’s child TB scourge, stressing the need for concerted response from stakeholders.

  He said “we now have a National Steering Committee for Childhood TB, which will now be the central advisory body of the Programme.

  “It consists of representatives from donor partners in the programme and includes vast expertise in TB research, academia and staff of NTBLCP.”

  The national coordinator said that the capacities of pediatricians and medical officers were being built in the country to improve early diagnosis and prompt treatment of childhood TB.

  “We are improving clinical diagnosis by introducing of portable digital chest x-ray machines with Artificial Intelligence (AI).

  “The Global Fund is supporting this with USAID. The drug formula for children has improved.”

  Chukwuma said that the programme was also collaborating with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to improve on BCG immunisation to primarily protect children from TB, Leprosy and even Buruli ulcer.

  The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said the agency was working to strengthen sub-national disease surveillance systems in the country.

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