Thursday, April 05, 2007

England: An influx of immigrants is behind a rise in tuberculosis cases in Nottingham

Clare Boyd:

The number of cases in Notts has more than doubled in two years.

Hotspots for the infectious lung disease are Hyson Green, Forest Fields, Radford and The Meadows, according to the Health Protection Agency.

Two-thirds of patients are thought to be in the city centre, with others in outlying suburbs and Mansfield.

Latest figures show there were 118 cases of TB in Notts last year. In 2004 there were 53. Leicestershire had more, with 285 last year and 310 in 2005. In 2004, there were 198. Derbyshire had 80 cases last year, compared to 67 in 2005 and 81 in 2004.

Dr Richard Slack, the Health Protection Agency's consultant in communicable diseases, said the increase was due to people coming from regions with high instances of TB, such as Africa and parts of Asia.

But poor living conditions also play a part in spreading the disease, but Dr Slack warned people not to panic.

"The figures for 2002 to 2006 show an increase in Notts slightly greater than the national average," he said. "And if you compare the 2004 figure with last year's, there is a significant increase.

"The disease is largely seen in particular community groups, who come from countries with high instances of TB.

"There is no doubt this is a disease of overcrowding and to some extent poverty, even in the UK."

The agency is monitoring the situation closely.

Dr Slack said TB, which was common in the early part of the 20th Century, was still rare in Britain.

"The numbers are still pretty low," he said. "Not everybody getting on the 58 bus is going to catch it. It is also worth pointing out that not all cases are infectious - in some cases it is 'locked away' in parts of the body."

Dr Slack also said that the screening process for picking up new cases when someone moved to the UK had improved. And GPs are encouraged to send new patients who are at risk to be checked out at the chest clinic at the City Hospital.

About 8,000 new cases of TB are currently reported each year in the UK.

It can be spread by an airborne germ after a person who has TB of the lungs coughs or sneezes.

It usually takes several months for symptoms to appear and these include fever and night sweats; persistent cough; weight loss and blood in phlegm or spit.

Could a Tuberculosis Epidemic Occur in London as it Did in New York?

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