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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 August, 2004, 00:58 GMT 01:58 UK
Fears over TB infection 'hotspot'
TB bacterium
TB affects the respiratory system
London is a tuberculosis "hotspot" with half of all the UK's infections being reported in the city, figures show.

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) says there are about 3,000 cases of the respiratory disease in London a year.

That is double the total of 15 years ago, and the number of cases in England and Wales is up 20% since 2002.

Experts are warning that the number of cases in London and the UK will continue to rise unless the government invests more into TB services.

Dr Vas Novelli, head consultant on infectious diseases at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "Whilst screening for TB in high-risk groups has always been priority, TB is not always picked up immediately, and we are now facing multi-drug resistant strains of TB in the capital.

TB IN THE UK
The BTS reported a rise in TB cases in England and Wales from 5,798 in 1992 to 6,891 in 2002.
No other EU country has suffered an increase in TB over the past 10 years
Figures from the Health Protection Agency showed London accounted for 43% of all cases reported - followed by the West Midlands (15.6%), East Midlands (12.2%), and Yorkshire and Humberside (10.6%)
The 15-44 year-old age group accounted for 56% of all cases while the highest rate of 28.8 cases per 100,000 was found in people aged 25-29
People can have TB without it causing any symptoms until the patient becomes run-down or the immune system is damaged
"The current numbers of TB clinical nurse specialists also fall dramatically short of BTS Joint Tuberculosis Committee recommendations that there should be one nurse for every 40 TB patients.

"Unless the numbers of TB nurses are increased we will continue to see an inexorable rise in TB cases in London."

Areas worst-hit by TB such as Newham and Tower Hamlets in east London should be a top priority for recruiting more specialist nurses, he said.

Great Ormond Street is running a new monthly TB clinic in response to the steep rise in cases.

An audit carried out by the BTS of high incidence TB areas in 43 districts across England and Wales last year found that nearly 90% of them had insufficient staff to cope with such high levels.

Professor Peter Ormerod, from the BTS said: "It is amazing that on one hand the Government makes grandiose statements about building a modern, hi-tech NHS, but when it comes to deciding how we are going to manage a Victorian disease like TB we appear to be still living in the dark ages."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The Chief Medical Officer identified the need for more intense action and that is why we have been preparing a TB Action Plan for England which will be published in the autumn."




SEE ALSO:
Parents meet over school TB scare
24 May 04  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Tests for children after TB scare
14 May 04  |  Somerset
Pupils screened after TB scare
03 Feb 04  |  Lancashire
TB scare for students
17 May 03  |  Leicestershire


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