Tuberculosis rise in East London
Thursday, 04 March 2010
By Peter Henn
EAST London is the frontline in the fight against a resurgence of Tuberculosis (TB) in the capital.
In 2009, 3,376 new cases of the disease were reported in the capital.
Londoners now account for the largest number of cases in the UK, making up 39 per cent of the country’s total figure last year.
In Redbridge, the caseload rose from 58 in 2000 to 159 in 2008.
Dr Pratibha Datta, director of public health for Redbridge Primary Care Trust, said: “The figures are relatively low but we can’t be complacent, despite meeting London’s TB standards of care.
“The biggest obstacle we face is educating people about the facts and reassuring them TB is completely treatable.
“There is still a stigma attached to the name.”
TB is a bacterial infection which usually affects the lungs but can affect almost any part of the body.
It can be spread when someone with the infection coughs and another person breathes in the bacteria.
However, prolonged contact with the person is usually needed, and most cases can be successfully treated by antibiotics.
Its prevalence in east London is largely due to the area’s large Asian community who are most susceptible to TB with 81.9 per cent of carriers not born in the UK.
Dr Datta added: “People often become infected in their country of origin and the illness subsequently surfaces in times of stress when their immune system is low.
“The majority of cases we see in Ilford are non-pulmonary so the risk of cross infection is small.”
In response, Redbridge PCT has invested in an integrated TB service which fast-tracks patients with symptoms through diagnosis and treatment. A full course of medication takes six months.
In addition, two additional caseworkers have been employed to work in the community alongside a dedicated hospital team. This work includes outreach work, screening, education, TB clinics and home visits.