The COVID -19 pandemic has disrupted services and diverted attention from Tuberculosis, TB to the extent that the situation could result to a sudden increase of 6.3 million cases of TB between 2020 and 2025.
This was disclosed by Prof. Wilson Osaretin Osarogiagbon, consultant Pediatrician Pulmonologist during a lecture delivered at the Institute of Child Health Seminar room, Oba Akenzua II Complex, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, to mark the 2021 world Tuberculosis day with the theme, “ the time is ticking’.
According to him, COVID-19 has a direct and indirect effect on a person with TB due to the disruption of TB services during the lock down period.
“What happened to TB patients who could not get access to treatment and nobody seems to be talking about it. This is not good for the alarming increase in TB cases,” he noted.
Speaking on the topic, “Ending TB in Children, How Far, How Near, Prof. Osarogiagbon, said, “It is like a time bomb and if we do not do something there will be an explosion”, adding that, “Children are worst hit.”
He further noted that there are ten million orphans due to parental death every year and in addition the HIV pandemic also increased the burden of TB in children.
“At least one million children fall ill with TB each year, sixty seven children are infected with latent TB and twenty five children die due to multi drug resistant TB every year,” he added.
He however lamented that the several attempts by global bodies, including global ministerial conferences to end TB by setting targets have not succeeded in achieving its aims noting that, “no matter the targets set, we are close, the time is ticking.”
He said the progress toward global TB target set at the United Nations high level meetings on TB progress is lagging behind and unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic which is in its second year has taken increasing medical resources and attention away from providing necessary life saving medications and care to people suffering from TB.
In her own lecture titled, ‘What we Can do, Prof. A. E Sadoh said, “though TB is preventable, there is low awareness about the disease. It is unacceptable we allow it to continue to cause such carnage in the world.”
According to her, “we should deal with TB like we kill a snake by continuing with the medication and ensure contact tracing because it is airborne. The health workers should tell patients that the test is free and the patients should be treat patients with empathy and ensure they complete their treatment. It is treatable and preventable, it is time to end TB.”
The Chairman, Prof. O Oviawe and Director, Institute of Child Health, University of Benin Prof. Damian Nwaneri and other participants were of the view that there should be sanctions to countries that fail to the meet the target dates to eradicate TB and vaccines should also be developed for malaria, HIV and TB.