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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 10:59 GMT
UK has 'Third World' TB levels
TB bacterium
Some TB cases are not picked up in A&E
Tuberculosis rates in some parts of the UK are at 'Third World' levels, experts are warning.

Some London boroughs, as well as other places in Europe, have rates which are higher than those in China and parts of India and Africa.

The Stop TB Partnership, which includes a range of organisations campaigning for more recognition of the rise in TB, said the increase in cases in western Europe was caused by increased travel and population movement.

It says billions of dollars of investment is needed to identify and cure more patients with the disease.

TB is not a disease of the history books

Professor Peter Ormerod, British Thoracic Society

Two separate studies from the British Thoracic Society (BTS) highlight concerns about TB treatment in the UK.

One suggests up to half of patients attending A&E departments with TB are "slipping through the net" and not being diagnosed correctly.

The research, carried out in Newham Chest Clinic, east London and the Middlesex Hospital, suggests that as many of those affected are homeless, refugees or asylum seekers, staff can face language difficulties when trying to make a diagnosis.

A second BTS study found Bangladeshi patients with TB were often reluctant to discuss their diagnosis outside their close family.

The high level of stigma linked to the disease even led to one in eight feeling TB could affect the sufferer's prospects of marriage.

Rates doubled

At a Stop TB Partnership briefing of Westminster MPs, Dr Chris Dye of the World Health Organization, said: "London is a snapshot of the global epidemic."

TB cases per 100,000
Zimbabwe - 628
India - 178
China - 113
Romania - 138
Russian Federation - 133
Brent, London - 116.5
Newham - 104
Paul Sommerfeld of UK-based charity TB Alert added: "Rates of TB in Britain are at a 10-year high.

"Rates in London have doubled in 15 years with rates of TB in some London boroughs now at Third World proportions and cases of its most dangerous drug-resistant form on the rise.

"Already 50 people a week develop TB in London and TB in Britain has increased by more than 20% in the last decade."

The rate rose by 80% across London over that period.

The borough of Brent has the highest rate of TB in the capital with over 116 cases per 100,000.

These rates compare with 113 per 100,000 in China and 64 per 100,000 in Brazil.

Across Europe, the highest rates are 42 per 100,000 in Portugal and 20 per 100,000 in Spain.


Ian McCartney MP, minister for pensions, who contracted TB in 1992 said it had to be a priority in the UK.

"Like millions of others in Britain, I believed my lifestyle cocooned me from many of the dangers to which those in less fortunate circumstances are subject. I was wrong.

Ian McCartney
MP Ian McCartney was shocked to contract TB
"Back in 1992 as a Member of Parliament for a northern constituency, I was diagnosed as suffering from TB.

"I felt angry and frustrated that a disease from the past was staring me in the face."

He added: "We need to boost the levels of funding and make TB one of the highest priorities on the health and development agenda in Europe."

Professor Peter Ormerod, spokesperson for the British Thoracic Society (BTS), said: "There are a few areas of the UK that have levels of TB comparable to Third World countries.

"TB is not a disease of the history books and current levels of the disease in the capital are far too high. "

He said the only way to tackle the problem was to increase the number of lung specialists and TB nurses in the UK.

Professor Ormerod added: "Regrettably, funding for the level of services needed to care for the increasing number of cases of tuberculosis in places, both within and outside London has not kept pace with the burden of disease."

More than 23,000 people develop active TB and almost 5,000 die from the disease every day.

See also:

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