Top 5 Killer Diseases in Nigeria

There is no gainsaying the fact that Health is Wealth. However, quite unfortunately, countless families have been reduced to abject poverty and misery by reason of the huge health costs incurred during repeated or protracted hospital admissions to manage complications and disabilities resulting from these ‘Killer’ diseases that will be discussed in this piece.

To say the least, what about the numerous promising lives that are being claimed by these lethal diseases on a daily basis?
Evidently, the impact of these medical conditions cannot be overemphasized. Hence, for the wise, prevention is better than cure.

Arguably the most overlooked illness in Nigeria, malaria keeps wreaking havoc on a daily basis, especially among younger children (Under-Fives) who have yet to develop sufficient immunity against Plasmodium falciparum, the commonest causative agent of malaria.

According to the Nigeria Malaria Fact sheet, about 100 million cases of malaria are recorded annually in Nigeria with over 300,000 deaths. Sadly, the majority of these victims are children.
Furthermore, children under five are also more susceptible to a severe form of malaria (Cerebral Malaria) that occurs as a result of infestation of the young brain by the malaria parasite and may eventually lead to dreaded neurological sequelae like mental retardation, deafness, blindness and so on.

However, the good news is there are effective strategies geared towards reducing the burden of malaria viz the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs), Intermittent Preventive Treatment for pregnant women (IPT) and prompt diagnosis and treatment of cases. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) as the first-line in malaria treatment.

Cancers of the Reproductive tract
Needless to mention that cancers, especially of the reproductive tract are potentially fatal such that a diagnosis of cancer is sufficient to drive cold down the spine of anyone. Only recently, Nigeria lost one of her finest, Prof Dora Akunyili to endometrial cancer after 2yrs of battling with the scary diagnosis.

Cervical and Breast cancers are the commonest in women, while for men, it is prostate cancer.
A research conducted by Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card revealed that about 9,659 Nigerian women die annually from cervical cancer, with the frightening implication that, on average, one Nigerian woman dies of this cancer every hour.

Also, 1-2 in every 25 Nigerian women is at risk of breast cancer.
Furthermore, in a prospective study carried out on Nigerian men above 45yrs with prostatic symptoms, it was found that approximately 64% of patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer died within 2yrs of diagnosis.

The bottom line, however, is that these cancers are largely preventable through regular Pap smear screening tests and vaccination for cervical cancer; regular self-breast examination (for lumps) to detect breast cancer.
While there is no fail-proof measure to prevent prostate cancer, you
may reduce your risk by eating healthy (less fat, more fruits/vegetables) and regular exercise.

Diarrhoeal disease
A WHO Report in 2011 revealed that diarrhoeal illnesses claimed
173,878 lives annually in Nigeria, amounting to about 10% of total deaths. Regrettably, about 760,000 under-five children die annually from diarrhoea worldwide and majority are due to dehydration. To make matters even worse, several mothers attach little or no importance to diarrhoea and simply dismiss it as a natural accompaniment of teething.

It is noteworthy, however, that simple measures like proper hygiene, administration of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and zinc supplementation would suffice to reverse this ugly trend.

Cardiovascular Disorders
The cardiovascular disorders namely stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident), hypertension, heart failure and heart attack (Coronary Artery Disease) are important causes of sudden death in Nigeria. Previously thought to be limited to the Western world, it has become obvious that these disorders are now quite common with us.
A former Governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Agagu was reported to have slumped and died possibly following a heart attack. While it is worrisome that about 57 million Nigerians, representing approximately one-third of the entire population are hypertensive, it is even more worrisome that the majority of cases are detected only after dreaded complications have set in. Little wonder hypertension is aptly described as the ‘silent killer’.

Diabetes and Obesity are also closely related to the aforementioned cardiovascular disorders and they contribute their own quota to the death toll.
However, simple lifestyle modifications like avoidance of smoking, regular exercises and drug compliance will go a long way to prevent these conditions or possible complications that may arise from them.

This dreaded infection is mostly contracted through contact with infected blood or body fluids during unprotected sex with affected individuals, unsafe blood transfusion, sharing of needles. Mother-to-child transmission also occurs before, during and after delivery.
A report from the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) stated that 3.4 million Nigerians were living with this condition, putting Nigeria on the second spot behind South Africa in terms of HIV global burden.

Fortunately, while a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS could easily mean a death sentence a few years back, the same cannot be said about the disease today. Thanks to the advent of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) medications which have recorded a huge success in combating the scourge of HIV/AIDS by improving the quality of life of patients.

In conclusion, it is glaring from the foregoing that simple preventive measures and healthy lifestyles can safeguard you from these killer diseases. My candid advice to you is endeavour to stay healthy at all times.


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Written by PH


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