At least 18 Nigerians die from Tuberculosis (TB) every hour, a TB expert, Lovett Lawson, has said.
Mr Lawson, the Board Chairman of Stop TB partnership Nigeria, disclosed this at a pre-World TB Day press conference in Abuja on Thursday.
The World TB Day is celebrated March 24 to raise awareness about the health, social and economic consequence of the disease and to step up efforts to end TB epidemic.
According to the Global TB report, the disease causes ill health for approximately 10 million people each year.
Mr Lawson said Nigeria has the highest burden of the disease in Africa and the third highest burden in the world after India and Indonesia.
He lamented that over 75 per cent of Nigerians with the disease are yet to be diagnosed or receive any form of treatment.
This, he blamed on the lack of awareness about the disease among the communities and the social stigma attached to those diagnosed with the ailment.
He said though, in recent times, Nigeria has been improving its efforts in finding the missing cases, those cases yet to be detected are more than those reported.
Detecting all cases, he said, is very important because the missing cases are a risk to those who are not infected.
Mr Lawson advised Nigerians who have been coughing for more than two weeks to visit health facilities because an infected person can infect 10 to 15 persons if not quickly treated.
"Unfortunately, despite significant progress made over the last few years, every hour, 18 Nigerians still die of TB; a disease that is preventable and curable. It is on this basis that Stop TB partnership Nigeria is working with other partners to complement the efforts of the government to end TB in Nigeria.
"We also want to use this opportunity to call on the president, Muhammadu Buhari, to accelerate TB response and keep the promise made on TB at the UN meeting in New York last year."
The president had joined other Heads of states at the first ever UN high-level meeting in September 2018 to accelerate TB response in countries to end TB. At the event, Mr Buhari pledged his commitment to ending TB in Nigeria.
In a similar vein, Adebola Lawanson, the National Coordinator of National Tuberculosis Buruli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme, said the disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
Mr Lawanson, who was represented by Emperor Ubochioma, lamented that Nigeria still ranks among countries with the highest burden of the diseases. He said Nigeria has so far been able to detect only 25 per cent of people with the disease.
With this low rate of detection, Nigeria is classified among countries with a high burden for TB, TB/HIV and MDR-TB and currently ranks sixth globally and first in Africa.
Mr Lawanson said the country contributes nine per cent to the global 3.6 million missing TB cases, coming behind only India and Indonesia with 26 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
He said an estimated 418,000 new TB cases occur in Nigeria in 2018.
"The country notified 104,904 (25 per cent) and 106,533 cases of TB in 2017 and 2018 respectively giving a gap of 314,712 and 319,599 cases yet to be notified respectively. This implies that a large number of TB cases are still undetected/missing thereby constituting a pool for continuous transmission of diseases in the community."
He said the missing TB cases can be found among men, women and children with different forms of TB, including drug resistance TB.
"TB remains a major global problem. It is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/AIDS.
"In 2017, there were an estimated 1.3 million TB deaths among HIV negative people and an additional 300,000 deaths among HIV- positive people.
"Despite these poor indices, most death from TB can be prevented with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Millions of people are diagnosed and successfully treated for TB each year and about 54 million deaths were averted from 2000- 2017", he said.
He said the major challenges identified for the high missing cases of the disease are the low case detection and low level of awareness among the populace.
"As a bold step in finding missing TB cases in the country, the Federal Ministry of Health in support of partners is rapidly expanding TB diagnosis and treatment services to more sites across the country."
He, therefore, urged Nigerians to always visit health facilities when they have a cough for over two weeks.