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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"It is easy to forget that this disease can be a killer"
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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Britain hit by drug-resistant TB
Britain has been hit by an outbreak of drug resistant TB
Britain has been hit by an outbreak of drug resistant TB
One of the worst outbreaks of drug-resistant TB has hit Britain, experts say.

So far, 59 young people have been hit by the strain. More cases are expected.

But public health experts have said the bacterium is not spread when people go to crowded clubs, as some reports have suggested.

Professor Francis Drobniewski, director of the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) which monitors infectious diseases, said: "Media reports linking nightclubs with this outbreak are misleading and exaggerated."

It is certainly one of the worst outbreaks of drug-resistant TB

Professor Francis Drobniewski,
He added: "It is certainly one of the worst outbreaks of drug-resistant TB."

The cases have been linked by DNA tests.

First case

The first British case was identified in January 2000 has been associated with a case in an individual from Nigeria in 1995 and a couple in 1998.

Most of the people affected are linked with family contact, contact at work, and intravenous drug use amongst prisoners, said Professor Drobniewski.

Those already infected with the drug-resistant strain are professionals in their late 20s who were born in Britain.

Professor Drobniewski said: "TB is a respiratory disease that can affect anyone. What this outbreak is showing is that even if you are young and wealthy you can still be infected."

TB is a major problem in developing countries, but has been declining in industrialised countries since the 1970s.

TB kills two million people each year, and an estimated eight million people are affected.

Countries such China, India, Africa and the former Soviet Union have been hit by drug-resistant strains.

TB is a disease which usually attacks the lungs, but it can affect almost any part of the body.

A person with TB does not necessarily feel ill but the symptoms can include a cough that will not go away, feeling tired, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, night seats and coughing up blood.

Drug resistant strains are the hardest to treat.

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