The strange disease that is causing swollen legs discovered in Bara village of Kirfi Local Government Area of Bauchi State has spread to four additional local government areas in the state.
The Executive Chairman of the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BASPHCDA), Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, who disclosed this to Daily Trust on Sunday during an interview Thursday, said that since the discovery of the illnesses in Bara, “We took the first six samples and later got additional five samples four days ago and taken for investigation at one of the standard laboratories in Anambra State.
“We asked our Disease Surveillance Officers in all the LGAs and World Health Organization (WHO) officials to check whether the same sign and symptoms of the ulcer is found in other local government areas.
“We discovered four local government areas with suspected cases of the disease to include Tafawa Balewa, Itas Gadau, Zaki and Ganawa LGAs. We have taken samples from the patients, and I was made to know that it has to go eight weeks for culture to confirm the kind of disease.”
Mohammed said the community in Bara is suspecting cancer of the skin and bones but it is a chronic ulcer that affects the bone and the skin though it has not been ascertained.
“One thing for sure we have to link-up with the tuberculosis Control Agency in the state because people should know that since they are in the family of mycobacterium Tuberculosis, mycobacteria lebron and mycobacterium ulcer which causes Buruli ulcer and when the results return as Buruli ulcer, then it is a stubborn infection that can kill the patient.”
Mohammed said the Bauchi State government is seriously working and had since dispatched teams of experts to all the affected areas, adding, “The cause of the disease is not yet known but since it is suspected to be a family of tuberculosis, we have started looking for tuberculosis in the laboratory in the affected communities.
“Our search in the affected communities is to check those that have tuberculosis or persistent cough for more than two weeks and those that have sign and symptoms of leprosy like deformity in the hands, eyes to be able to check and know the cause.
“In the mean time, our focus is to determine the cause of the illness and by the time we confirm it is Buruli ulcer, the treatment will be different which will include tuberculosis drugs, antibiotics and dressing while some of the victims will require skin grafting because the wound has eaten up to the bones, and the ulcer takes two to three years.”
He further reveals that the disease can cripple businesses and farming activities because the ulcer cannot allow the people to go for their day-to-day activities.
Disease on for over 3 years – Official
On the issue of death, Mohammed explained that the agency is not aware of deaths but preliminary findings indicate that the disease had been in the community for more than three years.
“We want to appeal to residents of the state where they have persistent ulcer on the leg or any part of the body to report to the nearest Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) or agency for urgent investigation so that they get treated because this illness is quite a strange one which is not known yet but it has been in the community for long and they didn’t know that government can do something about,” Mohammed said.
One of the affected victims, 14-year-old Saleh Ali Gambo, who’s been battling with the illness for two years, narrates his ordeals.
“I’ve been going through a terrible experience because sometimes I spend three days without sleeping because of the excruciating pain and high fever. My parents have tried their best by taking me to the hospital in both Alkaleri town and Gombe Specialist Hospital.”
Gambo said, “It started with swelling on my leg two years ago. At the beginning, the pain was not much but later, the skin on my knee broke open, making the pain to increase. The pain continued in both the tissues and bone to the stage where I couldn’t stand or walk with my legs.
“At a point, pus and blood were coming out from the affected area. I was admitted at the hospital and treated but the wound refused to heal. The wound defied all manner of treatment in all the hospitals we visited.
“My worry is the pain I am going through, especially when it induces high fever. My parents have now subscribed to traditional medicine which is reducing the pain and swelling,” Garba said.
On his part, 20-year-old Muhammed Yakubu, who is also battling with the illness, told Daily Trust on Sunday that his major challenge apart from the pain was the stigma from his fellow youth, especially friends in Bara village who stigmatize him for smelling.
“All my friends and some of my relatives run away from me saying I smell because of pus from the wound. This illness started two years ago. It was my elder brother that first got infected.
“The situation forced me out of school and sometimes I spend the whole day in my room due to the stigma but my parents give me hope and insist that I should not be worried, that the wound will soon heal.
“My father has exhausted his money in different hospitals on medical bills and drugs to treat the wound. We opted for traditional medicine and through God’s intervention the wound has started drying up,” Yakubu said.
Another 20-year-old, Mohammed Murtala, whose father is also affected by the illness, gave his own account.
“My own started after falling down in a football field and sustaining injuries. After I recovered from the injuries, my leg got swollen and later pus started coming out amidst severe pain. I was taken to hospital where I was placed on drugs and daily dressing for almost two weeks and luckily the wound dried off unlike my father who is still battling with the wound.”
Victim loses sibling to the disease
However, 67-year-old Murtala Sakinyaki, who underwent surgery due to the wound, but is still battling with the disease, told Daily Trust on Sunday that he lost his younger brother to the strange illness.
He said, “The illness started last year January when my leg got swollen and later burst open with pus gushing out for sometime, a situation that almost destroyed my leg. A doctor in our village took me to the specialist hospital in Gombe where they carried out surgery and removed the rotten part of my leg.
“After the surgery, I was on daily dressing and drugs for over three months. Later, I was advised to stop the dressing. Despite the surgery, drugs and dressing, the wound has refused to heal for over eight months, we don’t know the cure for this ulcer.
“We are appealing to the state government to come to our aid so as to know exactly what is causing this disease and find solutions to the illness before it becomes a serious disaster. My son also got infected on his knees but his has dried up.”
The village head of Unguwar Madaki, Malam Garba Madaki, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the disease has been in the community for over 10 years.
“This illness has become a source of concern for the community because it has killed many people. It starts from swelling on the leg and later penetrates the whole body. By the time it affects the stomach of the patient, the victim dies within some days.
“We are yet to receive any intervention from authorities except last week when officials from the ministry of health took some samples and left.
“We are appealing to the state government to urgently take necessary action to prevent the rest of the people from being infected because this illness is very stubborn and defies all manner of treatment,” Madaki said.